Lincoln University student Nick O’Connor has many ideas for his future, and winning the Grand Final is one of them.
Hailing from his family farm in Westport, Nick knows a thing or two, much like his elder brother and fellow competitor, Peter O’Connor.
Nick says winning FMG Young Farmer of the Year would be this year’s icing on the cake – especially if he can beat Peter.
“The Grand Final in July is going to be good fun,” he says.
The Tasman contest marked his first Regional Final, and as chair of the Lincoln Young Farmers Club, he’s stoked to have come away with a win. Nick hopes his “uni mindset” will give him an advantage in the final competition.
“Having the time and resources around me at Lincoln means I can get some quality study in for it. There are a lot of people willing to help from the uni, so I’m really lucky. At the same time, other contestants have skills and experience that I don’t have.”
His goal is to get better at the practicalities of agriculture – something he’s excited to try more of once he graduates.
“The plan is to go overseas and do a couple of harvests in Australia and Canada, then go and work on my uncle’s farm in the UK … then I’ll get into dairy farming back home.”
One day he hopes to be a part of the Dairy Grassroots Programme in New Zealand, like his brother, and land a leadership role in the dairy industry – whatever that may be.
“Only time will tell. If I saw a need for innovation or change, I wouldn’t be afraid to push through.”
When he’s not knee-deep in studies, Nick works at his family’s farm on the West Coast. Wedged between mountains and sea, there’s not one paddock that isn’t surrounded by native bush. For Nick, it’s bliss.
“We’re pretty isolated from everything over here. For me, it’s a great break from the city.”
Growing up on the 600-cow farm made for a full-on childhood. When he was a kid, the farm had just developed, and both his parents were, and still are, very involved. He spent all his spare time outside helping them both. So, when he’s home for the holidays, Mum and Dad make sure to keep him busy.
“We do all of our own contracting, silage, cultivation work, fertilising and spraying, so there’s always something to do.”
His favourite thing about farming is problem-solving. He says you might have one thing figured out, but there’ll always be something around the corner to follow.
“Solving these problems and navigating the process of them is what excites me the most. You never stop learning.”
As a new-generation farmer, Nick is passionate about the future. His advice to those wanting to enter the industry is you can learn about anything, regardless of your background.
“You don’t have to be brought up on a farm to know everything about farming. If there’s one thing I know, is that no one really knows everything anyway.”