Technical Field Representative Joseph Watts is preparing for the FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition. This is his second shot at the grand final title, and he’s putting the hard yards to secure the win.
Joseph Watts is a former city boy turned agricultural advocate. While he’s only been involved in the industry for a short while, he’s come a long way from not being able to operate a quad bike.
“My first ever district competition, I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to drive a quad or a tractor. I thought I could get through the rest of it. The first two modules were a quad bike and a tractor. So I spent the first half-hour of my first competition getting the judges to show me how to do two of the most common farming tasks”.
Now confident behind the wheel of a tractor, Watts says he can’t imagine working in another industry. But there was a time where he saw his future looking slightly different. While he had a keen interest in architecture at high school, squash made up a big part of his life and working in the professional sports world was where he thought he was bound to end up.
“In my last year at Palmerston North Boys High School, I started playing squash on the professional world tour. Over the next five years, I competed around New Zealand and Australia full time while also studying extramurally full time at Massey University”.
He completed a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Management. Life had other plans, and when his girlfriend and now wife, Lucy, landed her first vet job in Raetihi, Watts discovered a love for the land, the primary sector.
“I started doing casual jobs like shearing and started looking into different parts of the industry and then went back to Massey to do a Graduate Diploma in Rural Studies. While the primary sector wasn’t always part of the plan, I’d struggle not to be part of it now”.
Watts and Lucy moved to Waipukurau in 2016, and he has been working as a technical field representative for PGG Wrightsons for the past three years. His job is to help farmers with their cropping and pasture needs.
He joined Young Farmers when they made the move to the Hawkes Bay to meet some like-minded people. He was also drawn to the competition.
“I didn’t know anyone on this side of the island, and I was still new to the agricultural industry, so I figured it was a good way to meet people. I’ve always been a keen competitor, so the FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition was a big part of why I joined as well”.
Having qualified twice previously for the grand finals, Watts lost out in 2019 by a whisker to James Robertson, and COVID-19 meant missing out on the chance at the top spot.
His 2019 grand final experience taught him a lot. While he has many things he would’ve done differently now, Watts says that he’s making a significant effort to incorporate the competition and what it entails into everyday life this time around.
“If I need to use a farmers tractor for something, I do the pre-start safety checks. If someone asks me a question about feed budgets, I run through it like I would if I was answering an exam question.
To put it simply, I’m always ‘on’. The more I can make it part of my day, the more comfortable I feel when I get put into that competitive environment. It also helps me ensure I’m doing things correctly in my day to day life”.
Looking ahead to his long term career goals, Watts is keen to get some skin in the game and get into farm ownership. For right now, though, he’s enjoying this stage of his career and relishes the opportunity to learn from his colleagues and upskill in agronomy.
“The beauty of this competition is that it opens up so many doors. I’d love to go and manage a cropping and finishing operation and push the limits of what can be achieved, but right now, I have some talented people around me that I get to learn from every day, which I’m loving”.
“I think one piece of advice I’d give to a young person starting in their career is don’t chase the money too quickly. There are so many fun and exciting opportunities out there that won’t necessarily give you the best short term return in terms of pay. But the relationships and experience you build from that will help shape you as a person and make you a valuable asset in the industry. You’ll discover what you enjoy doing, and it will all fall into place”.
Come July, Watts will draw on his background as a professional sportsman and previous grand final experience.
“2020 saw me mount a bit of a comeback after missing out in 2019, so it was tough being told it was cancelled. So I’m really motivated to give this my best shot”.