Friday, February 23, 2024

Young – and even younger – farmers start their engines

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Season 56 of the annual FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition begins February 9-10 in Dunedin.
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More than 800 contestants across Aotearoa are gearing up to prove they have what it takes to be one of New Zealand’s top young farmers. 

Season 56 of the annual FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition begins February 9-10 in Dunedin – the first contest in a series of regional finals attracting a diverse mix of young farmers from across the nation.

The nationwide event boasts a proud track record of showcasing the very best talent New Zealand’s food and fibre sector has to offer – the title of “FMG Young Farmer of the Year” is held up as one of the most prestigious farming awards in the country.

Almost 180 AgriKidsNZ, FMG Junior and FMG Young Farmer contestants have put their names forward to compete in this weekend’s Otago Southland Regional Final. 

Southland siblings Laura, Megan, and Richard Whyte are among them. 

“We all do have a competitive side, but we all like to see each other do well. The last time we went head to head I saw my sister learn to shear a sheep. I was pretty proud of her that day,” 23-year-old Megan said.

Younger sister Laura said she’ll be using the competition as an opportunity to learn new skills.

 “Learning things that you wouldn’t normally learn at home has been awesome, from vet to breeding to bull-picking modules, it’s always really interesting.”

NZ Young Farmers’ chief executive Lynda Coppersmith said the competition will be fierce, with a series of challenges that could test contestants on any aspect of modern farming across the entire supply chain. 

Only the top contestants from each regional final will qualify for a spot at July’s grand final in Hamilton. 

“This is their opportunity to prove themselves and show the rest of New Zealand they have what it takes to be the best. Considering we’re a nation that prides ourselves on our farming know-how and expertise, that’s no easy feat,” Coppersmith said.

Usually, a series of one-day district competitions kickstart the annual contest, but this year’s format looks a little different with district and regional competitions combined into one event.

“It means we don’t need to organise 14 separate district competitions, which is a huge weight off our incredible team of volunteers who support us year in, year out,” Coppersmith said.

“After this season, we’ll evaluate how it’s all gone with the trial of the new format and make some decisions about the format beyond Season 56.” 

Contestants compete in one of three categories depending on their age. Primary school students, some as young as eight, enter the AgriKidsNZ contest, while high school students, working in teams of two, are eligible for the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition. Those who’ve left school compete alone for a shot at rural stardom.

Coppersmith said it’s great to see the competition continuing to evolve, attracting people from a range of backgrounds. 

“Season 56 is shaping up to be one of our best yet with so many new faces including a large number of primary students entering our AgriKidsNZ competition. It just goes to show the future of farming is in good hands.”

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