Around 800 people are getting ready to take over Whangārei for the three-day FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest series Grand Final.
Held from Thursday the 7th to Saturday the 9th of July, seven FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Finalists, 28 FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competitors and 63 AgriKidsNZ competitors from across the country will battle it out for their respective national titles.
Technical day manager Calvin Ball, Grand Final convener Natalie Lynch, practical day manager Kurtis Danks and Northern Regional Chair Nikita McCahon (left to right).
They’re the top contestants from their regions – Northern, Waikato Bay of Plenty, East Coast, Taranaki Manawatu, Tasman, Aorangi and Otago Southland – and qualified for the Grand Final from Regional Finals held at the start of this year.
Alongside the Grand Final, the New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF) Tournament Series finals will bring in 47 competitors plus judges, (seven fencing teams competing in pairs, 20 Stock Judges and 13 Clay target shooters), 200 people will also attend The Norwood National Awards hosted by Jay and Dunc from 'The Rock Drive' and the organisation's Annual General Meeting.
It is the biggest event series in the NZYF Calendar, one that involves a mammoth effort to pull off.
Grand Final convener Natalie Lynch said they're really looking forward to showcasing the best of Northland's agriculture industry and showing off the region to the NZYF community.
"We've kept two things at the forefront of our minds when planning and that was wanting to challenge our contestants to show what they're made of in terms of their agricultural skills but we also want a spectacle. We want it to be awesome to watch for everyone, regardless of their experience within the sector," she said.
Northern's Tim Dangen, Waikato Bay of Plenty's Chris Poole, East Coast's Mark Wallace, Taranaki Manawatu's David Reesby, Tasman's Jonny Brown, Aorangi's Tom Adkins and Otago Southland's Alex Field will all be battling it for the title of FMG Young Farmer of the Year.
The Grand Final kicks off on Thursday, known as technical day where the seven Grand Finalists will undertake a strategic business exam and an HR challenge to assess their leadership and management skills.
They will present their Market Innovation Challenge, a project they had 12 weeks to work on to demonstrate innovation and entrepreneurship through the creation of a new product or service to supply into a new market.
They will also submit and be interviewed on their community footprint project, a three-minute video of each contestant acknowledging the importance of involvement and leadership in rural communities.
An opening celebration parade at 3:00pm on Thursday will also see hundreds of competitors and sponsors proceed from Reyburn House Lane to Putahi Park for the official opening ceremony.
Friday the 8th of July will be one of the biggest days with the practical day going down at Barge Showgrounds from 7am to 3pm, which is free and open for all spectators.
All 98 competitors will go head-to-head in a series of practical and theoretical challenges as well as a number of modules with hundreds of supporters expected.
Practical day has historically involved big machinery, building, livestock and more with agri-sports, farmlets, and race off challenges across the three levels of contest.
Lynch said everything will have a bit of a 'Northland flavour' this year.
"A lot of people involved in Northland's sector are wearers of many hats, so there will be no straight farming skillset required on the day. There will be lots of different challenges contestants will have to face that relate to our industry, not exclusively on-farm."
"We really encourage everyone to come down and watch, there truly be something for everyone. We can't wait to showcase the best and brightest of Young Farmers and Whangārei ."
At the AgriKidsNZ and FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year awards ceremony on Friday night, the seven Grand Finalists will be tasked with presenting a four-minute speech on a range of topics, in front of a crowd of 300 that will also be live streamed.
NZYF Events Manager Staci Barnette said this year they wanted competitors to get involved in the local community utilising a break in the back-to-back schedule on Saturday morning before the Evening Show.
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Finalists and their families and supporters will participate in an initiative with the Environmental Protection Authority, a contest sponsor.
"We wanted to give back to the community and volunteer in some way while also giving competitors some quality time with their families to regroup before the evening show where nerves are pretty high,” she said.
"Sustainability is a huge part of the contest and making sure the primary industries are fit for the future. It's pretty cool that our FMG Young Farmer of the Year 2022 Grand Finalists will be able to leave their own legacy in Whangārei."
They will then head into the evening show on Saturday night, where the famous buzzer quiz will go down and the season 54 FMG Young Farmer of the Year will be announced.
The FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year teams and their families will head to Lynwood Avocado Nursery on Saturday, after their contest has ended. There they'll be introduced to different parts of the nursery and contest sponsor, the Ministry for Primary Industries, will also be on-site, discussing the nursery's bio-secure areas.
"We wanted to provide the contestants with a learning opportunity about an aspect of farming and growing that is unique to the Northern Region. It’s also a chance for the contestants and their supervisors to come together after all of the competing is over so they can network and get to know other like-minded future young farmers from other parts of the country."
It's the first Grand Final in a number of years where all seven FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Finalists are all sheep, beef or dairy farmers, an aspect that is exciting New Zealand Young Farmers Chief Executive Lynda Coppersmith.
"The FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest series really showcases the future of the food and fibre industries and it's abundantly clear from this year's 240 contestants that the sector is in good hands," she said.
"The winterless north will be a great backdrop to really test our competitors and show us what they're made of."
"Our volunteers over the season have created some epic events and we are over the moon to have got to this point and be able to host Grand Final this year. Of course, nothing in this contest would be possible without all our volunteers and our sponsor family and for them we are truly thankful."
Lynch started thinking about what Northland's Grand Final would have to offer in 2016 and eventually realised she wanted to be a key part of it.
The regional team and committee submitted their proposal in early 2020 to host Grand Final and she said it has been a long time coming.
“The committee have put in so much work behind the scenes and none of this would be possible without all of them so I extend my biggest thank you to the team for their tireless effort and dedication.”
"I'm really excited to be able to give back to our Young Farmers community and also my local community at the same time and show off everything that Young Farmers and Whangārei have to offer all in one hit," she said.
"I'm really hoping it opens the eyes of our members and sponsor family to all the good things Northland has to offer and that people want to come check us out in Summer and keep coming back."
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest Subcommittee (left to right) Malcolm Nitschke, Luther Siemelink, NZYF Board Chair Kent Weir, Michelle Stevens (FMG) Nigel Woodhead (2018 FMG Young Farmer of the Year) and Joseph Watts (runner up FMG Young Farmer of the Year 2019 and 2021).
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest series would not be possible without support from our family of sponsors FMG, Ravensdown, Worksafe, MPI, Environmental Protection Authority, Honda, STIHL, Massey University, Lincoln University, New Holland and PTS Logistics.
The full Grand Final timetable can be found here: https://www.youngfarmers.co.nz/contest-grand-final-timetable
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