New book explores New Zealand’s best-loved agricultural contest

Posted by on 13 February 2019 | Comments

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Kate Taylor still vividly remembers the agony of crossing the line at the end of the gruelling agri-sports challenge in her only Young Farmer of the Year regional final.

“I was absolutely shattered. I totally get the mental and physical boundaries competitors push themselves to,” she said.

Using chainsaws, fencing, swinging a gate, scanning ewes, driving farm bikes and tractors, were just some of the modules in the East Coast regional final at Dannevirke in 2001.

“I remember fighting with the fence. It was supposed to be five wires, but I only got two up,” said Kate, who was still breastfeeding her daughter at the time.

Kate Taylor.Almost 20 years on, the Hawke's Bay freelance journalist has written a book on the colourful history of the prestigious agricultural contest.

In 50 Years Young: A History of the Young Farmer of the Year, Kate meets winners, finalists and organisers, and shares their stories of passion and commitment.

“The book’s full of personal stories about the dedicated people who’ve been involved with contest since it begin in 1969,” she said.

“Their passion for the contest and for the contest family has blown me away.”

Kate spent last year travelling the country conducting interviews, taking photos and collecting information for the 288-page book.

“One of the highlights was catching up with old friends from NZ Young Farmers and telling so many stories that could never make the book,” she said, laughing.

“I also loved meeting some of the people who have always simply been names on the back of the grand final programmes.”

“One such moment was meeting up with 1992 winner Grant Catto.  I have known his identical twin brother Warwick, who won in 1995, for 25 years, but I’m not sure I’d ever properly met Grant,” said Kate.

The Young Farmer of the Year has been testing the knowledge, skills and stamina of the country’s food producers for five decades.

“Like many New Zealanders, I grew up watching the contest on television. The book has the same broad appeal to both rural and urban people,” she said.

“It’s not a farming book. It’s a snapshot of how the contest impacted on people’s lives while at the same time, it reflects changes in farming in those 50 years too.”

NZ Young Farmers, which runs the FMG Young Farmer of the Year, has been a major part of Kate’s life.

“Every time I moved when I was younger I joined a new club. It was a great way to meet people and make friends. I met my husband Thomas when I joined Eskview Young Farmers,” she said.

“When I was approached to write the book I didn’t need any convincing to say yes.”

The big question is, what does it take to win the FMG Young Farmer of the Year?

Kate puts it down to stamina, time management, building support networks, a wide general knowledge, the ability to think outside the square, technique and being prepared.

50 Years Young is published by Massey University Press and can be purchased from book stores and online.