The search is on once again for New Zealand’s top young farmers, with talented young individuals around Aotearoa, encouraged to throw their hat in the ring for a shot at rural stardom.
Entries for the FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest series have just opened for 2024. The competition, now in its 56th season, boasts a strong track record showcasing not only the future of farming but the best talent New Zealand’s food and fibre sectors have to offer.
Between February and April, seven regional final competitions will be held across the country – those who top their field will qualify for a spot on the national stage.
New Zealand Young Farmers’ Chair Chloe Jones is hoping this year’s contest attracts a wide range of people, including those without a farming background.
“No matter your skillset there’s something you can bring to the table. I’ve been in clubs where we’ve had rural nurses, butchers, and diesel mechanics. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you have an interest in the food and fibre sectors then it’s worth giving it a go.”
Contestants can enter one of three categories depending on their age. They’re tested on a range of skills – from fencing and operating machinery, through to cooking, woodwork and irrigation.
"Our primary-aged contestants, some as young as five, enter the AgriKids NZ contest. It’s heaps of fun and a great way for kids to work together to solve complex challenges,” says Jones.
High School students, working in teams of two, are eligible for the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition, while those who’ve left school compete alone, battling it out for the prestigious title of ‘FMG Young Farmer of the Year’ and $90,000 worth of prizes.
“It’s essentially a quest for the ultimate all-rounder, a reflection of the skills required to be a Young Farmer,” says Jones.
“Every competition is different, and contestants start each day not knowing what skills they’ll be tested on. It definitely keeps things interesting.”
Jones says the FMG Young Farmer of the Year category is a crowd favourite. This year’s Grand Final winner, Emma Poole, was the first female in the history of the competition to top the podium.
“I’m still on top of the world,” says Poole.
“When I reflect on the journey I’ve gone through to get to where I am now, it almost feels surreal, especially when I think back to the very first time I competed. Back then I couldn’t have imagined what I’d achieve today.”
Poole says taking part in the contest was eye-opening.
“It’s opened doors for me that otherwise might have remained closed. At the very least, you have fun, so why not give it a go?”
Hamilton will play host to next year’s Grand Final. The three-day competition will take place between 11-13 July 2024. Exact locations and event details are yet to be confirmed.
Participants can enter the Season 56 contest series via the New Zealand Young Farmers website.
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest is proudly supported by FMG, Ravensdown, WorkSafe, Ministry for Primary Industries, Honda, Lincoln University, Massey University, PTS Logistics, New Holland, Milwaukee and Bushbuck.
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