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East Coast to hold first FMG Young Farmer of the Year final

23rd January 2018

East Coast to hold first FMG Young Farmer of the Year regional final

A former competitive snowboarder, a stud bull breeder and an award-winning shepherd are set to face off in the East Coast Regional Final of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

It’s the first of seven regional finals being held from Kerikeri to Winton to decide contestants for the grand final of the prestigious competition in Invercargill in July.

It’ll be independent soil consultant Robbie Hill’s second attempt at winning a regional final.

The 26-year-old who enjoys a challenge, rears 600 bull calves on his own and also works part-time on his family’s 650 hectare property west of Hastings.

“We finish 1,000 bulls, 10,000 lambs and 250 velveting stags, plus we do cropping and tourism,” said the former competitive snowboarder who’s travelled to about 40 countries.

Robbie’s not the only well-travelled finalist.

Rob Barry was a ski instructor in Canada and Europe before returning home to work for the BEL Group, where he’s a 2IC milking 1,220 cows once-a-day at Ashley Clinton.

Rob’s late father Peter Barry won the grand final in 1993.

“That’s always in the back of my mind. I want to do well by him,” said the 24-year-old.

They’ll go up against 2017 Tararua Shepherd of the Year Hamish Duff, who’s overcome major physical challenges to get back on the land.

“The right side of my face had to be reconstructed using metal plates after I had a car crash in 2012,” said the former Smedley Station cadet.

Brandon Giddens, who spent time driving tractors for an export hay business in Canada in 2013-14, is aiming high.

“I’m 6’7” tall, so I can reach things in high places,” laughed the 26-year-old who manages an intensive sheep and beef operation running 3,300 hoggets at Carterton.

Bull breeder Ben Thomas is cramming a lot into 2018.

“My wife Steph is expecting our first child a few weeks before the regional final, so I’ll be knackered,” said the 27-year-old who grew up on an apple orchard.

Ben has also been awarded a NZ Angus Association scholarship to spend a month working on cattle studs in Australia.

He’ll go up against fellow angus cattle breeder Richard Falloon.

The 28-year-old manages his family’s 1,145 hectare farm in Masterton, which runs angus cattle and a coopworth sheep stud.

“Prior to returning home in 2016, I worked as a stock manager at Lake Heron Station in Mid Canterbury which is a sprawling 30,000 hectare property carrying 14,000 stock units,” he said.

It’ll be the second time Hugh Abbiss and Patrick Crawshaw have faced off against each other at a regional final.

The pair started working together at Foley Farming Enterprises in central Hawke’s Bay in July 2017.

“I’m used to pacing myself,” said Hugh, who’s completed 10 full marathons in New Zealand.

Patrick got a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in 2017, spending time as runner-up Hamish Best’s official bag carrier.

“It was an interesting insight into how gruelling the competition is at that level,” said the 24-year-old.

The regional final is being held at the Masterton A&P Showgrounds on February 17th. The evening show, hosted by Te Radar, is at the Wairarapa College Hall.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the iconic agricultural competition which was first held in 1969.


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