Another epic battle to be named New Zealand's best Young Farmer about to kick off

Posted by on 28 June 2016 | Comments

With just over ten days to go until the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final contestants are intensely studying for what they know will be the fight of their life. 

Often called the Olympics of the Agricultural world, the Contest has for 48 years, captured the fascination of many of the primary industry's current leaders and has proven to be the most difficult to win. 

This year the contestants know it will be no different and are prepping as best they can for what will be a mentally and physically exhausting showdown in Timaru from July 7th to the 9th until the last one is standing. 

It's brutal as the seven grand finalists are tested on their theoretical knowledge on day one at Raincliff Station at Timaru before undertaking a Head to Head challenge at the Piazza at Caroline Bay. 

As if that wasn't enough, in a new twist this year that will prove cruel to some contestants, they will be forced to back up their day with the all-important Agri-knowledge and Speech rounds that night.  

Traditionally the Agri-knowledge quiz round has been held on day three of the Contest but this year it will be held on the first evening where they will also be expected to deliver impromptu speeches. 

They will then have to stave off fatigue and dust themselves off for the torturous practical day where they will be subjected to a wide variety of farming tasks as well as the gut busting Agri-sport where they will finish their two days’ side by side bruised, bloodied and wearied. 

The winner of the FMG Young Farmer Contest will be announced on Saturday night before a packed audience at The Southern Trust Centre. That winner, whoever they may be, knows winning this prestigious title not only gifts them over $80 000 in prizes, but more importantly entitles them to wear the coveted "Cloak of Knowledge". 

For the winner, their life will change overnight as the accolades flow. Many past winners of the Contest have gone onto leadership and important roles within the primary industry. All have said the Young Farmer of the Year was the hardest three days they have ever been put through, yet all have said they'd do it again in a flash, such is the stature of the Contest. 

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year is on July 7th to 9th in Timaru. For more information please call Nadine Porter, Communications Manager, NZYF on 021 214 0703 or by emailing nadine.porter@youngfarmers.co.nz. Please note contestants are available for interviews prior to the event as is last year's winner Matthew Bell from the Aorangi region. Photos of contestants are also available. 

 

Contestant Profiles: 

 

Aorangi – Athol New 

Chances are that Athol New's Aorangi regional fan-base will be the most boisterous and loudest crew in Grand Final history – for one simple reason. 

His sister. 

At just two years old Athol was to suffer the indignity of his sister shoving a knitting needle in his ear resulting in a 30 percent hearing loss in his right ear! 

All is forgiven however, with the bonus being that Athol has guaranteed raucous support in his first tip at the title for FMG Young Farmer of the Year. 

These days Athol is busy as a dairy business manager in the Senior Leadership Team at Purata Farms supplying independent company Synlait Milk and it's that experience particularly in helping to set the strategic direction of the business that will make him a fierce competitor in Timaru. 

 

Northland – Jake Thomson 

From the suburbs of Wellington to the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final, Jake Thomson's story is one of incredible passion. 

The Wainuiomata raised lad could not have come from a more different background than his rural contest counterparts, but that hasn't stopped him setting his course in the primary industry and showing us all what can be achieved when you set your mind to it. 

These days you will find a contented Jake, his wife Alana and two daughters Hana and Morgan managing a 430 cow dairy farm west of Whangarei. 

With encouragement from former 2013 Grand Finalist Ian Douglas and his ready-made all girl cheer team, Jake is determined to do well, although he knows balance in all areas of his life is key to his success including looking after his wife! 

"I live by the phrase 'Happy wife, happy life'!" 

 

Otago/Southland - Logan Wallace 

When it comes to Health and Safety and mending an injured patient in any Contest first aid challenges, Logan Wallace will be in his element. 

His compassionate nature led him to joining the local Eastern Southland Search and Rescue Team and he has also become a Youth Worker in Gore. 

Eventually he hopes to become an operational tracker with Search and Rescue but his immediate priority lies on the 290-hectare home sheep and dairy heifer farm in Waipahi that he leases. 

An old boy of Telford where he studied rural business, Logan has also travelled to Australia and the United Kingdom on his OE where among other things he has the distinction of being the only Grand Finalist this year to do an 'undie' run in the freezing Swiss Alps! 

With that obvious fortitude, and his broad range of skills, coupled with past regional final experience, Logan is the complete package and could be the dark horse of the contest. 

 

Taranaki/Manawatu - Pete Fitz-Herbert 

Adventurous, exuberant and with the gift of the gab, Pete Fitz-Herbert is NZYF's version of Bear Grylls. 

The Hunterville lad is hugely experienced having entered every FMG Young Farmer of the Year since the late 2000s, although, he quips, he 'only seriously tried' in the past four of them. 

His penchant for wandering (geographically we should add!) coupled with his year 'socially excelling' at Massey University and his desire to continually challenge himself will make him a handful for the other contestants. 

Along the way he managed to meet a lovely young filly named Erica and the couple have now produced an heir to the Fitz-Herbert adventure gene pool in ten month old Harry. 

Where multi-sports, mountain running and Coast to Coast used to be Pete's idea of a weekend jaunt, nappies, bottles and interrupted sleep from his youngest supporter keep him occupied as does the looming three biggest days of his life at the Grand Final – not that it phases him. 

"Character building begins where your comfort zone ends." 

 

Tasman – James Hoban 

Culverden lad James Hoban is on a path to continuing a legacy created by his ancestors when they first settled his farm in North Canterbury in 1909. 

While half the 227-hectare farm is still susceptible to droughts, such as the one many are experiencing in the area at the moment, irrigation on the other half has provided security for the family. 

Coupled with James' Environmental Consultancy work off farm and his parents continued involvement the Hoban farm is weathering the storm, or lack of it, while maintaining profitability. 

The 30-year-old keeps family as his number one priority – a sentiment that keeps him grounded. 

Married to Maria and with two young children in Alice and William, James goes into this final as one of the favourites to win the Grand Final, having placed fourth last year. 

But just like the farm this year he knows it won't be easy. 

"Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." 

 

East Coast – Tony Dowman 

The feel good story of the Contest this year is the incredible real life saga of Tony Dowman – who has battled a serious debilitating injury to make it to his second Grand Final. 

While the other contestants use their brawn during the practical day, Tony will not only battle the tasks in front of him, he will also battle his body. 

At just 20 years old, the highly driven East Coast young man had his entire future mapped out but all that changed in one moment inside a cow shed like any other in Inglewood. 

Just one incident, one moment of time, saw Tony go from being a fit young active man to a near cripple for seven months as he fought to come back from a serious back injury. 

Specialists told him he would never be able to practically farm again, and with that his future changed overnight as did his aspirations. 

Today he is the business manager for Landcorp based in the Wairarapa overseeing nine farms, their managers and staff. 

Supported by partner Hayley and his young son Andrew, Tony's sheer determination is sure to get him a long way towards his dream of winning the FMG Young Farmer of the Year. 

 

Waikato/Bay of Plenty – Calvin Ball 

Overseas travel...trip of a lifetime...fun, sun and frivolity or the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Final? 

Back in March it was the very question Papamoa lad Calvin Ball had to face when he surprised himself and took out his region's top spot! 

A Massey University Ag Science degree with first class honours led to him escalating his way up the pathways of a fertiliser co-operative where he became responsible for strategy and business planning – a far cry from his younger days of helping out on the family dairy farm at Ruawai. 

But for any of the ladies eyeing up this single man, a word of advice...don't let on that you know anything about the equestrian world! The reason?" 

"The best life advice I had was when my Dad grabbed me by the scruff of the neck when I was six and said 'boy don't you EVER marry a girl who likes horses'!" 

Popular and with a truck-load of support from the Waikato/Bay of Plenty region Calvin could go all the way.