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Waimate local has another crack at becoming NZs top young farmer

Written by
NZ Young Farmers

A 25-year-old Waimate farmer is back for a shot at victory after narrowly missing out on his chance for fame at the country’s most prestigious farming event of the year. 


James Bell will compete at next weekend’s Aorangi FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition, after coming in second to Grand Finalist Peter O’Connor last year.  

Pictured: James Bell competing at the Aorangi Regional Final 2023 for second place.


The two-day competition, beginning next Friday at the Kurow Rugby Club, is part of a nationwide contest to find New Zealand’s top young farmers. This event is one of seven Regional Finals happening across Aotearoa between February and April and only the top contestants will qualify for a spot at July’s Grand Final in Hamilton. 


Over 150 contestants from the Aorangi region have put their names forward for a shot at the top spot. 


Bell is a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer working on his family farm in Waihaorunga, Waimate. 


He says this year isn’t about redemption but rather throwing his hat in the ring once again to see how far he can get. 


“I still want to give a decent crack at winning one year, it would be an amazing achievement. Maybe it will be this year, who knows.”  


Now with four years of experience working on the family farm and a Bachelor of Science under his belt, James is feeling confident he can pull something out of the bag. 


“Coming second last year was a real surprise, so I’m looking forward to competing and seeing what the competition has in store for us. I’m always keen to get stuck in and learn more, no matter what placement I get.” 


Usually, a series of one-day district competitions kickstart the annual contest, but this year’s exciting format has both the district and regional competitions rolled into a single weekend.  

Co-convenor Mikayla Bryant says contestants can expect some steep learning curves during a weekend of rural fun.  

“There are some incredibly intelligent people in the Aorangi region who are at the top of their game, but we don’t want them flying through it. We’ve set up this year’s competition to ensure they feel challenged. 

“As much as it will be hard, it will be a lot of fun, and we’ve made sure to include activities that are more on the easy and fun side so our young farmers can catch their breath.” 

Mikayla Bryant

Aorangi Co-Convenor Mikayla Bryant 

Contestants will compete in one of three categories depending on their age. Primary school students, some as young as eight, enter the AgriKidsNZ contest, while high school students, working in teams of two, are eligible for the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition. Those who’ve left school compete alone for a shot at rural stardom.  

NZ Young Farmers Chief Executive Lynda Coppersmith says it's encouraging to see a high number of contestants this year with 43% of FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contestants being first-timers. 

“Season 56 is shaping up to be one of our best yet with so many new faces including a large number of primary students entering our AgriKidsNZ competition. It just goes to show the future of farming is in good hands.”

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, Woolworths, Honda, Lincoln University, Massey University, PTS Logistics, New Holland and Bushbuck.

Written by
NZ Young Farmers

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