Southland's James Goodwin wins a NZYF Excellence Award

Posted by on 7 November 2018 | Comments

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It’s 5am on a chilly Friday in July. The piercing beeps of an alarm clock jolt James Goodwin from his sleep.

The Waitane Young Farmers member flicks on the lights in his Invercargill hotel room. Practical day has finally arrived.

By 6am he’s at Donovan Park. The beams from floodlights and volunteers’ headlamps slice through the darkness. It’s an eerie sight.

Today is the culmination of 18 months of planning for James and the hard-working team of volunteers he leads.

Soon a whistle sounds and seven young men from across New Zealand dart in different directions.

It’s the start of the gruelling practical day for the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.

Convening the grand final of the iconic contest on its 50th anniversary was a dream come true for the Gore sheep farmer.

“I love being involved with NZ Young Farmers. But I turn 31 in November, which means I’m about to age out,” he said.

“What better way to go out than to help organise one of the biggest events of the year on the rural calendar.”

Practical day modules were designed to test the stamina of contestants, while reflecting the contest’s long history.

Images of rain-soaked grand finalists hurling 150kgs of wet wool into old wool presses will be etched into spectators’ memories.

Accepting the challenge of organising the 50th grand final was a big undertaking for the father-of-three.

“I don’t have any staff and I haven’t really had to manage people before, so that in itself was a huge learning curve,” said James.

“The job was made a lot easier by having an amazing committee that were just as committed to making it the best grand final ever.”

James is a natural at leading people, according to the chair of the NZ Young Farmers Contest Board Rebecca Brown.

“During his time as convenor James’ professionalism and commitment were outstanding,” she said.

“His dedication to grand final was amazing. He led his committee with respect and his leadership skills were exemplary.”

The 2018 grand final attracted national media attention and made front page headlines. It was described as the “best ever”.

It’s James’ performance in the demanding role as convenor which helped him win a NZ Young Farmers Excellence Award.

“It’s a bit overwhelming to think that there are people within NZ Young Farmers who think what I have done is extraordinary,” he said.

“It means even more to me that the person who nominated me is a North Island-based member. That’s pretty cool.”

The person James is referring to is Rebecca Brown. She said he embodies the ethos of the Excellence Awards.

“Taking on the role of convenor took James away from his family and his farming business,” she said.

“Honouring him with this accolade shows just how much the NZ Young Farmers Contest Board values the dedication of volunteers who help run the prestigious event. Without them, there would be no contest.”

“James has not only set a very high standard for future conveners and grand finals, but will also be a great mentor to others who will step into the role,” she said.

Invercargill 50:50 sharemilker Steve Henderson worked with James to help plan and organise the memorable event.

“I think the award is extremely well deserved. It was no mean feat pulling off that special grand final,” he said.

“I’d hate to think how many hours James put in behind the scenes, which meant time away from his family and farm.”

James runs his own 480-hectare farm in Gore, which he leases off his parents. It has 3,800 ewes and 800 hoggets.

He’s passionate about NZ Young Farmers. He’s been a member of the organisation on and off for the past 13 years.

James has never competed in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year, but he has received national accolades for his fencing skills.

James Goodwin and Lyndon Wallace won the Fencing Competition at grand final in 2016. James was also runner-up the following year.

“I always encourage other members to have a go. They might not always win, but it’s a great opportunity to grow their knowledge and test their skills,” he said.

James isn’t done with giving back. He aspires to the join the NZ Young Farmers Contest Board as an elected member.