A Massey University veterinarian student has been crowned the Taranaki Manawatu FMG Young Farmer of the Year and is the first Grand Finalist to be announced for Season 55.
Mac Williams, 20, is a second-year veterinary student at Massey University and was announced as the winner of the Taranaki Manawatu FMG Young Farmer of the Year on Saturday evening, after spending the day competing in a range of challenges at Riverbend Farms in Lepperton.
More than 100 spectators looked on as Contestants were put through their paces. The head-to-head challenges were a major highlight – working side-by-side, Contestants had just 30 minutes to build a beehive, cover a mini silage stack, fish for clams, and cut up a log. A classic sack race to the finish line was the last hurdle.
Williams found the head-to-head one of the hardest parts of the day.
“The time pressure of the head-to-heads added another element to the day, and the honey and beehive components involved a bit of guesswork,” he laughed.
Brad Beatson, 31, from Marton Young Farmers placed second, with Zayn Jones, 30, from Fitzherbert Young Farmers securing the final spot on the podium.
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition is dedicated to showcasing the very best talent in New Zealand’s food and fibre sector. Now in its 55th year, the title of “FMG Young Farmer of the Year” is held up as the most prestigious farming awards in the country.
The born and bred West Coaster, and first-time Contestant, says the win came as a massive surprise.
“I was sitting up on the stage and when my name came up at the top of the leaderboard, my heart just flipped!”
Williams is feeling excited about the Grand Final and will be asking as many former Contestants as he can for their advice as he starts the preparation process. He says his biggest focus will be on improving his environmental knowledge, as well as brushing up on health and safety regulations.
Williams will be competing against six other regional winners from throughout New Zealand who are yet to be decided.
The next generation of young farmers also took part in Saturday’s competition, with Nicolas Verry and Rhys Mitchell from Palmerston North Boys’ High School taking out the title of Taranaki Manawatu FMG Junior Young Farmers of the Year. Team Kiwitea Senior Boys, made up of Arie Jochem, Quinn Gerrish and Brodie Woolston from Kiwitea School were the Taranaki Manawatu AgriKidsNZ winners.
AgriKidsNZ Taranaki Manawatu Champions 2023
Verry and Mitchell’s supervisor Bridget Verry says while the boys loved everything about the event, “catching up with past competitors and friends they’d met in previous years” was a main highlight.
In the lead-up to Grand Final Verry says the boys will be calling on the knowledge of their grandfather who was a Grand Finalist representing the East Coast Region multiple times.
Taranaki Manawatu FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year winners Nicolas Verry & Rhys Mitchell
Jade Askin and William Russell from Feilding Agricultural High School placed second in the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition and will also be making their way to the Grand Final.
Runner up and third in the AgriKidsNZ contest were the South Makirikiri Mudders from South Makirikiri School and Team Rahotu Blue from Rahotu School. They have also been invited to July’s Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.
New Zealand Young Farmer Board Chair Jessie Waite says this year’s Grand Final is shaping up to be one of the best yet.
“We’re starting to get a glimpse of the impressive array of skills and talent coming through with the next generation of young farmers. There’s so much happening right now in the primary sector with science, innovation and new technologies. The future of farming is certainly bright.”
Waite says she’s thankful for the support of volunteers and sponsors who continue to back the event, year after year.
“The contest wouldn’t be what it is today without them. There’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes – from coming up with ideas for the competition to supplying the equipment needed on the day and helping with the set-up of the event. We’re so grateful to everyone who has played a part”.
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest is proudly supported by FMG, Ravensdown, WorkSafe, Environmental Protection Authority, Ministry for Primary Industries, Milwaukee, Honda, Lincoln University, Massey University, PTS Logistics, New Holland and Bushbuck.
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