Hamilton is set to play host to one of the biggest farming events of 2024, with New Zealand Young Farmers confirming the location of next year’s FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.
The Grand Final event, now in its 56th year, is a highlight on the rural calendar and will see seven national finalists battle it out over three days for the prestigious title of ‘FMG Young Farmer of The Year’.
14 FMG Junior Young Farmers of the Year teams will also compete for a national title, along with 63 AgriKidsNZ competitors from across Aotearoa.
But, to make it through to the Grand Final event they first have to prove their worth. Between February and April seven Regional Final competitions will be held across the country and only those who top their field qualify for a spot on the national stage.
New Zealand Young Farmers chief executive Lynda Coppersmith says farmers everywhere are still buzzing after this year’s Grand Final winner, Emma Poole, made history as the first woman ever to top the podium.
“I’d love to see Emma’s win give more young people the confidence to stand up and give it a go. Last year around 40% of competitors were female and we’d love to see that figure go even higher in 2024."
Coppersmith says she’s looking forward to an action-packed season in the “mighty Waikato”.
“The Waikato region really is a slice of paradise. It’s heartland, rural New Zealand and it has a long and proud farming history.”
The event, while popular with contestants, is also a fan favourite. Season 55’s Grand Final in Timaru attracted thousands of spectators, culminating a substantial boost to the local economy over three days.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a farming bone in your body, you’ll love being part of the action. The contestants that make it through to the Grand Final are the country’s very best young farmers. The competition is fierce, with high-pressure challenges that could focus on any aspect of modern farming across the whole supply chain,” says Coppersmith.
Grand Final convenors and local Young Farmer members Nicole Cooper and Dannielle Imlig say they’re looking forward to showcasing the Waikato region to the rest of the country.
“Hamilton has got so much to offer. While we’re renowned for our dairy farming we’ve recently been branching out into other areas, including sugarcane, blueberries and kiwifruit,” says Cooper.
“And if you go further afield to the coast you’ll find mussel farms, so we’re a lot more diverse than people realise.”
Usually, a series of one-day district competitions kickstart the contest, but this year’s format looks a little different with both the district and regional competitions rolled into a single weekend. Day one will resemble the traditional District Contest while day two will align more closely with a Regional Final.
“It means we don’t have to organise 14 separate district competitions, which will be a huge weight off our incredible team of volunteers who support us year in, year out. They put so many hours into each competition, so hopefully by streamlining the contest in this way we’ll be able to take off some of the pressure,” says Coppersmith.
The new format was trialled in the Northern and Waikato/Bay of Plenty Regions last year. All going well this season, it could become a permanent fix.
Season 56 entries for all three levels of the Contest will open on Wednesday 18 October here.
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest series would not be possible without its family of sponsors FMG, Ravensdown, WorkSafe, Ministry for Primary Industries, Milwaukee, Honda, Lincoln University, Massey University, PTS Logistics, New Holland and Bushbuck.
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