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Taranaki Manawatu “good Sorts” Compete To Inspire The Next Generation Of Young Farmers

Two Manawatu shepherds competing to become New Zealand’s top young farmer are hoping their efforts will inspire others to get outside their comfort zone.

Baylee Hodges and Angus Brodie are throwing their hats in the ring to compete at the upcoming Taranaki Manawatu FMG Young Farmer of the Year Regional Final.

The two-day contest between 15-16 March at the Central Districts Field Days in Feilding – is one of seven regional finals taking place across Aotearoa between February and April. Only the top contestants will qualify for a spot at the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final, being held in Hamilton in July.

Hodges and Brodie are two of 147 FMG Young Farmer, FMG Junior Young Farmer and AgriKidsNZ contestants from Taranaki to Manawatu – for them the ultimate prize of taking part is bringing the community together.

“As much as it’s a competition, it’s also about building relationships and community in the rural sector,” says Hodges, who is going into the competition with a wealth of experience, having worked on her fifth-generation family farm over the last nine years.

Season 56 marks her fourth time entering, and, as Chair of the Whanganui Young Farmers Club, she's hoping her efforts will inspire other members to get their boots dirty.

“Hopefully they’ll be more inclined to have a go themselves. It’s a good way to get us to work together and support one another to have some fun and see what we can achieve.”

Another good sort, Angus Brodie, knows the importance of coming together after shaving off his mullet last year to raise $13,500 for Parkinson’s New Zealand.

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Now competing for the first time in FMG Young Farmer of the Year, the Marton shepherd is excited to try his hand at something new.

“I’m going to have a crack to see how far I can take it. If everything goes well then, I’ll be at Grand Final, but I’m in it for the experience.”

Mentored by his “good mate” and Season 54 Grand Finalist Dave Reesby, Brodie says it was Reesby who encouraged him to enter this year.

“He said I’m practical, so I will be pretty good. I just need to work on my theory,” he laughs.

“I like getting out of my comfort zone when I can, like when I cut off my mullet.”

Convenor Sarah Taylor says the upcoming Taranaki Manawatu contestants should expect the unexpected.

“If there’s one hint I give, it is to check out the sponsors for the weekend. We’ve tried a few new things this year, and we’re excited to see how the young farmers will thrive under pressure.” 

Contestants will compete in one of three categories depending on their age. Primary school students, some as young as eight, enter the AgriKidsNZ contest, while high school students, working in teams of two, are eligible for the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition. Those who’ve left school compete alone for a shot at rural stardom in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

NZ Young Farmers Chief Executive Lynda Coppersmith says it's encouraging to see a high number of entries into this year’s competition, with 43% of contestants being first-timers.

“This is the 56th season of FMG Young Farmer of the Year and it’s shaping up to be one of our best yet with many new faces including a large number of primary students entering our AgriKidsNZ competition. It just goes to show the future of farming is in good hands.”

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest series would not be possible without its family of sponsors FMG, Ravensdown, WorkSafe, Ministry for Primary Industries, Milwaukee, Woolworths, Honda, Lincoln University, Massey University, PTS Logistics, New Holland and Bushbuck.

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