Thursday, December 7, 2023

FMG Juniors showcase future of farming 

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Regional Junior Young Farmers preparing for the big dance.
Tasman FMG Junior winner Zander McCloy, left, and Michael Blunt.
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Across Aotearoa, 14 FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year teams are busy preparing for their shot at a national title.

The two-day contest for high-school-aged students will see the top two teams from each region come together to tackle a range of challenges, designed to test them on aspects of modern farming across the whole supply chain.

The winning team will be crowned FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year at an evening awards ceremony on Friday July 7.

St Bede’s College students Michael Blunt and Zander McCloy are among the top contestants, having qualified when they secured the title of Tasman FMG Junior Young Farmers of the Year at the Tasman Regional Final earlier this year.

“I think it’s fair to say that we’re both feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement heading into the Grand Final,” Zander says.

“We both made a commitment this year to go all out and put in as much effort as possible. As year 13s, it’s our last year competing in the FMG Junior category, so we’re pretty happy to be giving this opportunity to go to the Grand Final and have that experience,” he says. 

The pair are preparing for the contest by studying and are spending their spare time honing their practical skills with support from their supervisor, John McPhail.

“Obviously, we won’t know what challenges the boys will face until the day, but we’re putting our best foot forward and preparing for a range of scenarios,” McPhail says.

He says the boys have been lucky to have three former St Bede’s students as role models. Brothers Nick and Peter O’Connor, and Mac Williams, are all Grand Finalists this year.

“It’s awesome to see our students coming out on top – and it shows Michael and Zander what can be achieved if you put the hard work in.”

Michael’s dream to compete in a Grand Final started in 2018, when he and his family made the trip to Invercargill to watch his brother compete in the Grand Final.

“I remember thinking the atmosphere was awesome. I really enjoyed the hype and the build-up, and it was cool to support my brother every step of the way.” 

Michael is proud to continue his family’s tradition. His father, Anthony Blunt, won the coveted title of Young Farmer of the Year back in 1991.

“My dad is a third-generation sheep and beef farmer from Kaikōura, so it’s pretty special to be able to carry on in his footsteps and make him proud.”

New Zealand Young Farmers chief executive Lynda Coppersmith says the competition creates an awesome opportunity for high-school students to get involved in the agricultural sector.

“Hopefully they’ll feel really inspired. There’s so much more to farming than mustering sheep and milking cows. There’s a lot of pathways people can go down, and being able to showcase that is just one of the many great things about this competition.”

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