James Lawn named as the Taranaki Manawatu FMG Young Farmer of the Year

Posted by on 22 February 2020 | Comments

James Lawn has been named as the Taranaki Manawatu FMG Young Farmer of the Year and third Grand Finalist for the 2020 season.

The 30 year old is a business manager for Parininihi ki Waitotara farms in Taranaki.

Hugh Jackson, a DairyNZ trainee consultant came runner up and AgriHQ marketing analyst Graham Johnson came third.

Accepting the win on stage, James said he was excited and overwhelmed, with the work and preparation needed over the next few months.

The contest is based around five strainers - technology, environment, people, food and innovation.

James was also awarded the top points in three out of the five strainers – innovation, environment and food.

Runner up Hugh was awarded top points in the people strainer, meanwhile Michael McCombs walked away with the win in the technology strainer.

James, who oversees seven dairy and six drystock farms, walked away with $12,000 in prizes.

The Massey University Alumni has a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Agriculture, Rural Valuation and Management.

This will be his second Grand Final, after competing in 2017 where he came 5th place, just behind Lisa Kendall - who has also been named as a 2020 Grand Finalist for the Northern Region.

“I understand the process and the time and constraints that it’s going to put on life. There’s always going to be a challenge with every Grand Final, not knowing what the organising committee is going to throw you, but I’m lucky enough to be a previous Grand Finalist and I’m going to try to lean on that experience as much as possible and hopefully bring back the trophy for Taranaki Manawatu,” he said.

The eight regional finalists competed in eight modules and battled it out in two time and points races – head to heads - at The TSB Hub in Hawera on Saturday.

The two head to heads tested their chainsaw skills by carving Mount Taranaki and a wave out of a log, fishing “fish” out of the “pond” with unseen hazards and quotas, making videos about what environmental sustainability means to them, rigging up a gate, assessing fake farm accidents involving ‘real life patients’ (contestants pulled in from the FMG JR Young Farmer of the Year contest to act) and testing cheeses.

A written exam, as well as the famous FMG Young Farmer of the Year (FMG YFOTY) buzzer quiz also tested the regional finalist’s knowledge.

For runner up Taranaki Manawatu FMG YFOTY, Hugh Jackson, it was his first time competing in the contest.

“I’m ecstatic, I’m very stoked, it couldn’t have gone much better tonight and today, it was really good fun and I’m over the moon,” he said.

Taking out the strainer for people, he said the WorkSafe module helped him out, but he surprised himself with his own health and safety knowledge.

He found the head to heads the most challenging part.

“I didn’t quite get to finish the second to head to head, and I finished last in the first head to head but thankfully it wasn’t about placing but just trying to complete it within the time.”

An advantage he thought, was being a recent 2019 Massey University Bachelor of AgriCommerce graduate, now in a Graduate Programme with DairyNZ.

“I really surprised myself at the quiz and being on the DairyNZ Graduate programme now helped a huge amount with heaps of information going in, so I’m really grateful for that.”

He’s adamant he will compete again.

In third place, Graham Johnson, an AgriHQ Marketing Analyst was also a 2019 Massey University graduate, with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science.

The 22 year old came runner up at last year’s Taranaki Manawatu Regional Final and was also runner up FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year while in high school.

The FMG YFOTY event is sponsored by FMG, Ravensdown, Honda, WorkSafe, PTS, STIHL, Lincoln University, Massey University, Southfuels/Northfuels, Betacraft and New Holland. 

For James Lawn, the road to Grand Final starts now.

He spent three years as a consultancy officer for DairyNZ and has also travelled the world farming.

He came back to his family dairy farm but was forced to give up farming in 2019 after a serious accident.

 “You’ve just got to roll with whatever life throws at you and be prepared in whatever way you can handle, with the things that you’ve got placed in front of you, so this is just another challenge for me and it’s an exciting one,” he said.

Having competed against Lisa Kendall before in the 2017 Grand Final, he said he’s excited to go through the same process with a good friend, but there will be some fierce competition.

“It’s certainly going to be hopefully a tight knight group again of competitors when we’re competing but friends when we’re finished,” he said.

Leaning on his strength which is his technical experience, he said now he’ll need to formulate a plan for the next level up.


-          $1,000 cash reward from FMG

-          A $1,500 Ravensdown package

-          WorkSafe leadership course valued at $4,000

-          Honda XR150 farm bike

-          $1,000 New Holland voucher

-          3 year subscription to zero harm farms



1ST – James Lawn

2ND – Hugh Jackson

3RD – Graham Johnson


People – Hugh Jackson

Environment – James Lawn

Technology – Michael McCombs

Innovation – James Lawn

Food – James Lawn