23-year-old dairy farmer Shiann Cattley isn’t one to shy away from a challenge.
Getting up every morning at 4am to milk 260 cows is “all part of a day’s work” for the hardworking Ruawhata local, whose impressive farming skills recently landed her a spot in the upcoming FMG Young Farmer of the Year East Coast Regional Final.
Held up as one of the biggest primary sector awards in the country, the FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition boasts a strong track record of showcasing the very best talent and skills New Zealand’s food and fibre sector has to offer. Contestants are put through their paces, first by having to qualify at their District Contest, then their Regional Final, before battling it out at the Grand Final.
Each contestant competed against 14 people from their district. Shiann is one of eight contestants headed for the Regional Final.
“It’s my first time in the competition and I’m really enjoying it so far. I’ve already met so many new people, made new friends and connections and I’m learning so many different skills,” says Shiann.
Whilst Shiann will be the youngest competitor at the East Coast Regional Final in March, her experience of growing up on a farm has put her in good stead for the event.
“At ten years old, I was fostered by my aunt which allowed me to experience farm life, which then gave me the passion that I have today. I loved the freedom of being outdoors. When I started working, farming was something I always came back to. I just knew it was exactly where I wanted to be.”
Now in its 55th year, New Zealand Young Farmers Board Chair Jessie Waite says the competition continues to attract new entrants like Cattley – this year 45% of competitors are giving it a go for the first time.
“It’s amazing to see the new generation coming through. There’s so much happening in the primary sector right now with science, innovation and new technologies. The skills being demonstrated by these contestants are proof there’s much more to farming than herding sheep.”
There are seven Regional Finals running across Aotearoa between February and April 2023. No competition is the same, and contestants start the day not knowing which of their skills will be put to the test.
“It’s quite a gruelling experience – tests could cover any aspect of modern farming across the whole supply chain, so they’re having to learn new skills and retain new information. That’s a challenge in itself, but when you put pressure on top of that it’s a whole new ball game,” says Waite.
“Season 55 is shaping up to be an exciting one, with so many new contestants, and a growing number of females throwing their hats in the ring. I can’t wait to see what this year’s qualifiers bring to the table.”’
Each Regional Final will decide who will be competing at the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in July 2023 and the winner will receive around $70,000 worth of prizes.
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest Series would not be possible without support from its family of sponsors: FMG, Ravensdown, Worksafe, MPI, Environmental Protection Authority, Honda, STIHL, Massey University, Lincoln University, New Holland, PTS Logistics and Bushbuck.
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