Friday, December 1, 2023

Young farmers get practical on first day of final

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Seven finalists battle it out to become the young farmers of the year.
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New Zealand’s top young farmers gave it their all as they were tested across a series of physical and mental challenges in the practical skills day of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final on Friday.

Held over three days from Thursday, July 6 the competition, now in its 55th year, has seven Grand Finalists – Lisa Kendall representing the Northern region; Emma Poole, Waikato-Bay of Plenty; Mac Williams, Taranaki-Manawatū; Nick O’Connor, Tasman; Patrick Crawshaw, East Coast; Peter O’Connor, Aorangi and Hugh Jackson, Otago-Southland. 

The Winchester showgrounds in South Canterbury was also host to a further 28 FMG Junior Young Farmers of the Year competing for a national title, along with 63 AgriKidsNZ competitors from across Aotearoa. 

Peter O’Connor, Aorangi, constructing a fence in the Farmlet section.

Grand Final convenor Ashleigh Bell of Pendarves Young Farmers in Mid Canterbury said it was a chance to showcase what the Aorangi region is made of with carefully curated challenges designed to capture the unique flavour of the area. 

“In Aorangi, we’re known for our diversity, including dairy, sheep, grain and deer farming. 

“We’re lucky enough to have the southern Canterbury plains on our doorstep, the rolling hill country and the high country, so there are a lot of different industries in the mix.”

Friday’s practical day provided plenty of exciting competition before a large crowd of spectators. 

All 98 contestants across the three sections went head-to-head in a series of practical and theoretical challenges as well as several modules involving big machinery, motorcycles, livestock, trees; including constructing a chicken coop, assembling a hydroponics system with running water, plants and all; shearing sheep and wool handling; trimming a hoof, fencing, constructing a gate, saddling up a pony, pitching a tent and laying concrete. 

Emma Poole, Waikato-Bay of Plenty, is third across the finish line in the AgriSports section behind the O’Connor brothers – Peter, Aorangi, first and Nick, Tasman, 2nd.

“We wanted contestants to be really challenged at this event. 

“These competitors are incredibly talented, so we didn’t want them gliding through it. 

“They have had to give everything they’ve got to prove they’ve got what it takes to be New Zealand’s best,” Bell said.  

Patrick Crawshaw, East Coast, gets the wheel off the motorcycle in the AgriSports section.

The AgriKidsNZ and FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year contestants will have their awards ceremony on Friday evening, but the fate of the seven FMG Young Farmer of The Year Grand Finalists won’t be decided until after the famous buzzer quiz on Saturday evening, July 8. 

“There’s a lot riding on contestants during a Grand Final. They’re constantly thinking about so many different things at once. 

“If they think too far ahead or too far back, they’ll lose focus, so it takes a lot of mental skill to get through the three days,” Bell said. 

NZYF chief executive Lynda Coppersmith says picking a winner at this stage is anyone’s guess. 

“The evening show and awards event is going to be phenomenal to watch. 

“The talent is out of this world, proof that the future of farming in Aotearoa is bright.”

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