Female could make history at FMG Young Farmer of the Year

Posted by Nadine Porter on 12 June 2017 | Comments

In three weeks, New Zealand will have a new FMG Young Farmer of the Year and for the first time in the 49-year-history of the Contest it could well be a female from the city taking the title home. 


Held in the Manawatu from July 6 to 8th, this year's Contest is set to be one of the most fiercely contested in modern times with seven equally talented individuals putting their all, on the line, to win the country's most prestigious agricultural competition. 


Among them will be 24-year-old Karaka townie Lisa Kendall who is among the hot favourites to take the title. The urban lass who grew up on a lifestyle block has had a sensational year after convincingly beating out experienced opposition at the Northern Regional Final in all facets of the Contest. 


In only her first year of competing she is now not only facing the real possibility of taking the title, but also, taking it home in only her first year competing. 


However, there are six equally determined Kiwis from around the country studying hard in the lead-up to the event to put their region on the map. 


Included in that is another hot favourite - Hamish Best, from the East Coast of the North Island. The 27-year-old has all skills on paper to create a massive headache for his peers should everything fall into place. The PGG Wrightson technical representative also has leadership acumen and will show that in the heat of battle. However, he faces an added expectation with East Coast winning every decade that ends with a seven since 1987. 


Best friend and former flattie, Richard French, from the Waikato/Bay of Plenty will also be tough opposition having worked as a banker before coming back to farming. The 27-year-old will prove a handful having experienced top-level sport as a hockey representative for the Under-21 Central Districts hockey team. 


In an unusual twist this year, Taranaki/Manawatu representative James Lawn will compete alongside friends and former flatties Richard French and Hamish Best. The dairy farmer has broad experience to back him up after travelling extensively throughout the world.  He will also have an undoubted advantage with the Grand Final being hosted by the Manawatu - but will have to push all friendships aside to do it! 


The most experienced contestant this year is Andrew Wiffen who will represent the Tasman region. The West Coast dairy farmer has competed in many Regional Finals and will be the most comfortable new entrant to Grand Final level. At 29-years-old, he is also the veteran contestant, and will bring all that richness of knowledge to the fore. 







Aorangi's Arjan Van't Klooster is expected to be in the top three come the end of the Grand Final, which is not surprising, given the region's extraordinary strong record in recent years, having had Athol New and Matt Bell record back to back wins. A highly driven entrepreneur and innovative dairy farmer, Arjan is focused on doing it once and doing it right. 


Rounding out the magnificent seven is Otago/Southland's Nigel Woodhead. Hailing from Milton in South Otago, the sheep and beef farmer also has extensive arable experience and could be the pride of his province should he be the first from his province to bring the trophy home since 1982. 



WHAT: FMG Young Farmer of the Year 

WHERE: Palmerston North and Feilding 

WHEN: July 6-8 

WHO: Lisa Kendall, Northern; Richard French, Waikato/Bay of Plenty; Hamish Best, East Coast; James Lawn, Taranaki/Manawatu; Andrew Wiffen, Tasman; Arjan Van't Klooster, Aorangi; Nigel Woodhead, Otago/Southland 


Profiles of Contestants: 


Northern, Lisa Kendall 


First time competitor Lisa Kendall is the epitome of the powerful future New Zealand rural leader NZ Young Farmers have been increasingly becoming recognised for creating. 


In her first attempt at the FMG Young Farmer of the Year, the 24-year-old driven and highly talented self-employed urbanite from Karaka became the story everyone was talking about.  

Strong, determined and intelligent she took the Northern regional final by storm and demolished the competition, but for those that know the infectious lass, it has come as no surprise.  


Raised on a lifestyle block, Lisa grew up in South Auckland with her lawyer Mum and her father who was an electrical engineer but the city wasn’t for her as she set about becoming a farmer. 

Following a Diploma in Agriculture and Farm Management at University, Lisa worked on dairy and sheep farms and went to Thailand to volunteer in an orphanage. 


Although her parents thought she’d become a professional ballet dancer, they couldn’t be prouder of the Northern lass who has a very real chance of becoming the first female ever to win the FMG Young Farmer of the Year! 


  • Owns and operates Nurture Farming Ltd – an ag support service company 
  • Was a hugely talented ballet dancer but quit the bright lights for farming 
  • Always watched the FMG Young Farmer of the Year as a child and told herself that    one day she would win it! 






Waikato-Bay of Plenty, Richard French 


Richard French knows all about the mana of being a Grand Finalist in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year having grown up in a Young Farmers household, with a Father who helped organise a Grand Final back in 1987. 


And although it seems surreal to be in the final, Richard is well prepared for the rigors of the Contest having completed an Applied Science and Agricultural degree and Rural Valuation degree at Massey University.  


The 27-year-old was a former ANZ Rural Banking Graduate Programme recipient before the land claimed called him back to his grass roots. 


These days you can find him shepherding on a farm at Rotorua, but long-term, the Wairarapa family farm is where his heart is. 


It may be his first shot at the Grand Final, but as Richard proved in the Regional Final, his previous experience at top-level sport could be his secret psychological weapon that sees Waikato-Bay of Plenty taking home the prize of having the best Young Farmer in New Zealand. 


  • Has experience at top-level sport having been an under 21-hockey representative for Central Districts. 
  • Is a loyal NZ Young Farmer member since 2008 and is currently the Reporoa Young Farmers Treasurer 
  • Grew up in awe of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year and cannot believe he has made the Grand Final! 



 East Coast, Hamish Best 


The pride of the East Coast, and NZ Young Farmers leader, has a colossal amount of support going into the Grand Final, with many tipping him to be the first Coaster to take the title home in a decade! 


A committed member of NZ Young Farmers, Hamish has been a regional chairperson and is now seeking election to the Board, and has a history of high achievement that will stand in good stead when it comes to his first Grand Final. 


The 27-year-old has a degree in Ag Science (with honours) and now works for PGG Wrightson as a  technical representative following three years as a wholesale manager at Agricom. 


The Massey University 2011 student of the year may have currently traded in his roots in sheep and beef farming back on the family farm at Ohariu Valley but believes he will end there in ‘some shape or form’ in the future. 


Right now his 50-hectare lifestyle block, work and Contest preparation means this year is a busy one, but as they say, if you want someone to do something, ask a busy person! East Coast Young Farmer members will be crossing their fingers hoping the saying applies to their hero taking home the coveted FMG Young Farmer of the Year title! 


  • Is a NZ Young Farmers stalwart through and through having taken various leadership roles and meeting his future wife Hannah through the organisation! 
  • If statistics are anything to go by Hamish Best should be the hot favourite to win with the East Coast winning every decade for the past three decades ending with a 7! 


Taranaki/Manawatu, James Lawn 


A veteran traveler, James Lawn brings a global outlook to the Contest following extensive travel in 49 countries before he arrived as a Grand Final competitor just four weeks after he returned to New Zealand… 


The 27-year-old former DairyNZ consultant has duel regional ties, having once been the Regional Chairperson of NZ Young Farmers in Otago/Southland. 


However, his heart lies in the region hosting the Grand Final this year and the Coastal Taranaki Dairy Farm he was raised on. 


A Massey Bachelor of Agricultural Science graduate, James has also worked in Australia on a large grain farm and has experience working on an English arable farm. 


Although this is James’ first time in a Grand Final, he knows that having the home town advantage can add another ten points to the final score, which could just see him be the first Taranaki/Manawatu FMG Young Farmer of the Year since 2008! 


  • James is a travelling wayfarer who has visited 49 countries! 
  • Looking to move into Primary Industry governance in the future 
  • Expected to have the psychological edge because the Grand Final is in his home patch! 



Tasman, Andrew Wiffen 


This year marks the biggest in West Coast dairy farmer, Andrew Wiffen’s life, having won the right to represent the mighty Tasman region and getting married just two weeks after the Grand Final! 


The 29-year-old veteran of the Contest couldn’t be more delighted to have made the step up to the Grand Final and will be a formidable foe with his experience in both sheep and dairy farming. 


A former Marlborough lad, Andrew graduated University with a Bachelor of Commerce and Agriculture and worked on dairy farms in Canterbury and at home on the family farm at Ward before setting up a 200-cow dairy farm near Hokitika with his family. 


A committed NZ Young Farmer, Andrew has held many executive positions through-out the years and has shown a dedication to the organization that shone through in his victory at the Tasman Regional Final. 


And although his wedding nuptials are not far away, Andrew is firmly focused on the prize at hand – taking home the right to call himself New Zealand’s top Young Farmer! 



  • A Regional Final veteran, Andrew has the most experience of any the competitors in the Grand Final this year 
  • Anything to do with livestock could be an advantage to Andrew, having won the NZ Young Farmer Stock-Judging Grand Final title in 2013 
  • Getting married two weeks after the Grand Final! 




Aorangi, Arjan Van't Klooster 


A popular winner from the region with the most Grand Final winners, Arjan Van’t Klooster was once a TeenAg competitor in his youth, but never dreamed that experience would see him vying for the title of New Zealand’s top Young Farmer. 


The 25-year-old completely dominated the Aorangi Regional Final – which was no surprise to those that know the driven young man from Glenavy. 


After graduating from University with a Bachelor in Commerce and Agriculture, Arjan went back to the family dairy farm but in the past year, he and his fiancée have bought a 164-hectare 600-cow farm in Glenavy. 


That commitment alongside lower order sharemilking 1200 cows on his parents’ farm sees Arjan overseeing eight staff and managing two properties.  


Although he has little time for anything outside his busy farming life, Arjan has been putting in plenty of preparation in order to make it a three-peat for Aorangi and will have plenty of family support in the Manawatu! 


  • Arjan could make Aorangi only the second region to have a three-peat of Grand Final winners with Otago/Southland reaching the same pinnacle in 2005 
  • TeenAg gave Arjan his start in NZ Young Farmers and the FMG Young Farmer of the Year 
  • He places strong values around community commitment and has been a volunteer firefighter for four years 


Otago/Southland, Nigel Woodhead 


The pride of Otago, Milton sheep and beef farmer Nigel Woodhead is humbled to be a part of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year legacy that was a big part of his upbringing. 


Having grown up in a Young Farmers household where his parents were highly active in local clubs and with his Dad competing in the Contest, Nigel is honoured to represent one of the strongest Contest regions in the country. 


The 28-year-old graduated from University with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and worked at Midlands Seeds in Ashburton for five years before heading home to the family farm. 


Currently he and wife Leanne run 3500 stock units on the 400-hectare property they lease from Nigel's family. 


It has been a busy road for the South Otago lad, having recently got married. A dedicated NZ Young Farmer member he has a mountain of support expected to travel up to see him in action! 


  • Nigel has competed in the strongest Contest regions in the country having been in the Aorangi and Otago/Southland finals 
  • If he wins he will be the first South Otago farmer in history to win the title of New Zealand’s top Young Farmer 
  • Nigel is married to Leanne – the Otago/Southland NZ Young Farmers Territory Manager 




  For more information, please call NZ Young Farmers Communication Manager Nadine Porter on 0212140703 or email nadine.porter@youngfarmers.co.nz