History was made when Waikato Bay of Plenty young farmer Emma Poole was crowned the 55th FMG Young Farmer of the year in Timaru on Saturday night.
Heading off a hot favourite, local Aorangi region representative Peter O’Connor, Poole goes into the record book as the contest’s first ever female champion.
“Absolutely buzzing,” Poole said as she awaited the result. She wasn’t sure if she had done enough to win but she had given it her all.
“I’m totally overwhelmed, I really wasn’t sure where I was going to sit.
“All the finalists have been so great throughout the competition and these last three days have been really tough so I wouldn’t say I was feeling confident, but I knew I’d put in my best effort and that’s all you can hope for at the end of the day.”
Poole secured the prestigious title ahead of the six other regional finalists after three days of gruelling challenges that tested the contestants’ farming skills and general knowledge in an array of tasks that included repairing farm machinery, creating a hydroponic system, fencing, shearing, and an intense agri-sport challenge with multiple tasks that saw points awarded for both skill and speed.
As Poole accepted the award, her brother, mentor and 2022 FMG Young Farmer of the Year Tim Dangen was there to congratulate her.
“We’ve finally knocked the grass ceiling off the roof,” Poole said.
“There’s a long chain of women that have worked really hard to display the important role we play in agriculture.
“All those women have given me the confidence to stand up and give it a go. I’m just a product of what they’ve all achieved,” she said.
“The most challenging was definitely the agri-sports. I had a pretty frustrating start with the baler and the tractor and that comes down to stress, but it’s no different to what we’re doing every day.
“Farming is tough when stress comes on and you’ve got to find a way to adapt and carry on.”
More than 600 spectators had poured into Winchester Showgrounds to watch the action unfold during Friday’s practical day as contestants worked with quad bikes, power tools and tractors to show off their practical skills.
Points added up with every challenge, though the race continued to play out neck and neck right up until the final buzzer quiz on Saturday evening.
In the end, Peter O’Connor missed out on the title by just 1.55 points, finishing on 408.60 behind Poole’s 410.15 with Otago Southland Young Farmer Hugh Jackson finishing third on 384.10.
O’Connor did, however rack up his own entry in the record book when he and his brother Nick became the first siblings in the competition’s history to compete in the same Grand Final.
Younger brother Nick, representing the Tasman region, finished in fifth place.
Alongside the coveted title, iconic trophy and famous Cloak of Knowledge, Poole claimed $90,000 in prizes.
Runner-up O’Connor also took home the agri-skills and agri-knowledge challenges.
He said his favourite part of the contest was racing the tractor down the home straight of the agri-sports challenge.
“It’s a great feeling to be awarded second place. The competition was really challenging, it put us through our paces with lots of unknowns and things I hadn’t done before.
“I’m a competitive person and I like to get out there and challenge myself, so I’ll definitely be back at some stage,” O’Connor said.