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Young Farmers show off skills

Young Farmers show off skills
Aorangi representative Peter O'Connor tackles a practical challenge as part of the Young Farmer of the Year competition in Winchester. PHOTO CLAIRE INKSON

Despite a frosty start, the chilly conditions did not stop the finalists from turning up the heat as they battled it out for the coveted title of FMG Young Farmer of the Year at the Winchester showgrounds yesterday.

Included in the line-up of seven finalists is Peter O’Connor, who is representing the Aorangi region after taking out the regional final earlier this year.

His brother Nick O’Connor is also competing as the winner of the Tasman regional final.

The brother-versus-brother clash has added to the excitement, topped off by the fact that the brothers are nephews of the minister of agriculture, Damien O’Connor.

Young Farmers chief executive Lynda Coppersmith says the interest around this year’s event has been higher than usual.

“We are getting so much attention, and I think that one of the reasons is that the primary sector got us through Covid economically.

“Hopefully, that means people are looking more favourably on the sector.”

The event provided an opportunity to showcase New Zealand agriculture and encourage the next generation to pursue a career in the industry.

Fourteen high school teams, including one from Mt Hutt College, were also competing for the FMG Junior Young Farmers of the Year title.

Coppersmith said Agrikids is the fastest growing part of the contest, something Young Farmers were looking at building upon.

“If you want to keep young people engaged in the sector, you have to make it fun."

The competition also served to strengthen rural communities and help young rural people stay connected.

“It gives them something to tap into and helps them find their tribe, which is important.”

The day saw the finalists compete in a series of practical and theoretical challenges and modules involving building, machinery, livestock and methane testing.

The agri-sports were popular with spectators, as Te Radar commentated on the challenges and entertained the crowds.

Grand Final convener Ashleigh Bell is pleased with how the finals have come together.

“Everyone’s been prepared and happy. We’ve had a bit of frost, but the sun came out."

Campbell said the finals were an opportunity to showcase the different agricultural sectors of the Aorangi region.

“We are playing to our strengths and putting a twist on events that have been done in the past and adding the Aorangi flavour.

“The community have really backed us to make that happen.”

Waihi school pupils Cameron Siegert, Leo Acland and Jack Foley are also competing for a national title, representing the Aorangi region in the Agrikids category against 60 other primary school children.

The winner of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year will be decided after a buzzer quiz at tonight’s awards evening at the Southern Trust Events Centre in Timaru.

By Claire Inkson