The Chair of the Lincoln Young Farmers club, one of New Zealand Young Farmers’ (NZYF) biggest clubs, has been crowned the Tasman FMG Young Farmer of the Year and will compete in the Grand Final in Timaru in July.
Nick O’Connor, 20, is originally from Westport and is currently finishing his Bachelor of Agriculture at Lincoln University. He was announced as the winner of the Tasman FMG Young Farmer of the Year on Saturday evening, after spending the day competing in a range of practical and theoretical challenges at the Amuri A&P Showgrounds.
O’Connor went into the Regional Final aiming for a top-three position and secured the top spot ahead of fellow Lincoln Young Farmers member Archie Woodhouse by half a point. George Watson, 30, from Waimakariri Young Farmers placed third.
“After winning the Agri-Knowledge challenge, I knew I had gained some ground, but it was still pretty crazy to have my name announced as the winner,” says O’Connor.
The head-to-head contest was a major highlight of the competition – working side-by-side, contestants had just 30 minutes to install a strainer post, identify six plants, run to the end of the field, strop down a large truckload of hay, sprint back to the start and finish off by blowing up a balloon, tying it off and popping.
“The head to heads were the best part of the day, going flat out and giving it your all was really fun. They were the perfect amount of challenge, and you had to be a bit strategic in deciding whether you were going for speed or quality,” says O’Connor.
Nick O'Connor competing in the head-to-head (photo credit Georgina Woods)
O’Connor says he is feeling excited about the Grand Final and is enjoying the win before planning out his preparation approach.
“At this stage, I will be talking to as many people as I can from across the industry, and I know I need to work on the quality and speed of my fencing!”
He will be competing against six other regional winners from throughout New Zealand, including Taranaki Manawatu’s Mac Williams, Waikato Bay of Plenty’s Emma Poole, East Coast’s Patrick Crawshaw, and Otago Southland’s Hugh Jackson. The Aorangi and Northern representatives are yet to be decided.
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition showcases 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 one of the most prestigious farming awards in the country.
The next generation of young farmers also took part in Saturday’s competition, with Michael Blunt and Zander McCloy from St Bede’s taking out the title of Tasman FMG Junior Young Farmers of the Year. The Gumboot Gang made up of Jack Wells, Lara Stubbs and Sophie Robinson from Tihiraki North Loburn School were the Tasman AgriKidsNZ winners.
Michael and Zander said they enjoyed the practical challenges within the competition, especially the fencing module.
“Our favourite part of the day was the fencing module, it’s always good to have some practical challenges in there,” Michael explains.
Michael and Zander competing in the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year Face-Off (photo credit Georgina Woods)
Tabitha White and Mikayla Molloy from Rangi Ruru Girls’ School placed second in the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year Competition.
Runner-up and third in the AgriKidsNZ contest were Team Bossy Bulls made up of Huw Cotching, George McLane, and Toby Hamilton from Seddon School and The Oinks made up of Fred Maher, Liam Underwood and Manawa Doonan from Seddon School. They have also been invited to July’s FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.
The winning AgriKidsNZ Team, the Gumboot Gang, competing in the Race-Off (photo credit Georgina Woods)
NZYF 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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