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Young Farmer of the Year contest to undergo major overhaul

New Zealand’s longest-running agricultural contest the FMG Young Farmer of the Year is set to undergo a major overhaul.

The revamp is designed to entice more women to enter the iconic contest and to help showcase the country’s food story.

As part of the significant changes, the TeenAg competition will be rebranded the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year.

“We’ve just celebrated our 50th anniversary, which is an amazing achievement,” said Hinds dairy farmer and NZ Young Farmers Contest Board member Cole Groves.

“However, if we don’t make some major changes now, this contest won’t be relevant in another 50 years.”

The changes are outlined in a new strategy unveiled this month.

“There will still be a strong practical side to the contest, but our modules and challenges need to utilise technology more,” said Dannevirke banker and NZ Young Farmers Contest Board chair Rebecca Brown.

“In future contestants might have to use GPS technology to mark out and erect a fence around riparian planting.”

Contest organisers are keen to tap into innovation and technology being used and developed by sponsors.

“We’d like to inject a bit of excitement and unpredictability into the contest through the use of innovation,” said Cole.

Awards for the highest-scoring competitor in each of the five challenges – from agri-business to agri-skills - are being scrapped.

They’ll be replaced with new awards assessing contestants’ skills and knowledge across innovation, food, people, environment and technology.

“We’re hoping the changes encourage more women to give the contest a go,” said Cole.

“We want to expand contestants’ knowledge beyond just fencing and identifying different types of fertiliser.”

The NZ Young Farmers Contest Board hopes the much-needed strategy will instil some passion in the hard-working volunteers who organise the contest.

“This gives us a clear direction, which I think has been lacking until now. The changes won’t happen overnight at regional level, but we’ve set the ball rolling,” said Rebecca.

The contest will also be used to better tell New Zealand’s paddock to plate food story.

“I think that can often get forgotten. There is a huge amount of public pressure on the primary industries at the moment. We’re all food producers and showcasing what we do is vital,” said Cole.

The two competitions designed to get school students excited about opportunities in the agri-food sector are also changing.

The TeenAg competition will be renamed the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year.

“When this was suggested to the Contest Board we thought, why has this not been done before?” said Cole.

“The AgriKidsNZ and TeenAg competitors idolise the FMG Young Farmer of the Year contestants.”

“Having AgriKidsNZ, the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year and FMG Young Farmer of the Year all part of the same event will help lift the prestige of the students’ contests,” said Cole.

Napier Boys’ High School student Matthew Halford was named the TeenAg Competitor of the Year in July. He’s stoked with the changes.

“This is awesome news. Learning the skills required to operate and use technology to its full potential is vital for the future of our industry,” said Matthew.

“But the practical modules are a highlight for many TeenAg members, so it’s important there’s a good mix between them and the theoretical challenges.”

TeenAg competitors will still compete in teams of two.

The changes will start rolling out at regional finals across the country early next year.

The 2019 FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final is being held in Hawke’s Bay in July.

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