NZ Young Farmers Rock!
In my previous travels, I would hear about agricultural competitions taking place in Australia and in New Zealand. When I was young I remember my parents competing against each other on teams at our very small local fair. Their challenge was to roll a large bale of straw from one point to another with one team member on top of the bale, then pound a bunch of nails into a 2×4 wood board, and then carry bags of canola to a pallet. I though it was the coolest thing but never really saw anything like it again until just the other day…
What you think about when I say young farmers? Is it the 20 to 30 year old who is actively farming or is it the young individual who is keen on agriculture and everything it offers? Well to New Zealand it’s both.
As I continue my Nuffield study a special interest of mine was always been to learn about the NZ Young Farmers (NZYF) organization and their success stories. It became evident from the start that farming IS cool amongst the younger generations in NZ and I found that people who weren’t even farmers still belonged to the group. For a national organization that collects a $70 dollar a year membership fee, I’d say this is pretty impressive. Unlike our Canadian Young Farmers Forum (CYFF), NYFZ is the go to place for all things ‘young farmer’. They educate and raise agriculture awareness to the primary school kids through AgriKids NZ and to teenagers through TeenAg. I think this is a great way to unify efforts in creating an educated agricultural skillset in our upcoming generation of young leaders and entrepreneurs.
The NZYF promotes themselves as a social organization; to have fun with down to earth people. The development of personal and practical skills is accomplished through participation and achievement. Local young farmer clubs are initiated by volunteer leaders in nearly all rural areas. With 86 clubs across the country and a total membership of 1,524 the young farmer craze is still growing. Each club has its own identity and does its own fundraising and/or sponsorship. Their local involvement is fundamental to rural sustainability. Local events take place from bi-weekly informal gatherings at the pub to seasonal formal social events. However the main attraction every year across the country is The National Bank Young Farmer Contest, where the best skilled, most knowledgeable and well-rounded young farmers compete for the ultimate Young Farmer of the Year title.
Anyone who is a member of the NZYF (between the ages of 15-31) is welcome to compete. First they must qualify at the district level to move on to regionals. Only the 7 winning regional members get to complete in the grand finals. Not only does the spirit of the competitive atmosphere motivate young farmers to contend but the total contest prize value of $341,090 most definitely helps! Don’t get me wrong, this is no easy task and it is known that some farmers spend 6 months preparing for a contest like this. The finals take place over a 4 day period which includes a technical day, a practical day and a televised grand final evening show.
This ultimate rural challenge is no doubt a crowd pleaser as the competition days are usually held in conjunction with community Field Days (similar to our local ag society show days or farm shows). I was lucky enough to help out with the Taranaki/Manawatu Regional Final contest in Fielding. Nicola and I had fun and it was really interesting to see each competitor have a different approach in completing various tasks. When it came to the Isuzu AgriSport Challenge everyone seemed to enjoy the entertainment of the 8 young farmers scrambling to complete the tasks properly and in a time efficient manner. To give you an idea of what this 40 minute head-to-head challenge included, the tasks were to:
- Sprint 30m to collect their wheel barrels full of various tools and powered equipment
- Re-load a grease gun with a new tube of grease
- Cut a log into three equal parts with the power saw
- Fix a wired fence
- Hang a gate on a post
- Plant 6 trees
- Tag 3 sheep
- Eat Wheatbix and drink a liter of milk from a green bucket
- Cut holes in the bucket and put it on their head
- Assemble the correct plumbing pieces so water ran into a barrel
- Skin a possum!!! (while most barrels full of water were dumped on the competitors)
- Move boards over the trenches and drive the quad to the end or the course
- Place 25 bags of fertilizer on a pallet
- Connect a bird chaser alarm to power on the quad
Pictures from the day of competition.
What a riot! Of course safety came first while judges watched the young farmers´ every move. People cheered and laughed as the young farmers were dirty, wet, bloody (from the dead possum), and no doubt exhausted. And to think a competition that started at 6:30 am with a written test would be over by mid-afternoon, not likely. There was still the ‘jeopardy like’ evening show to go.
Picture of the Evening Show – Top 4 contestants.
When all was said and done, Cam Brown from the Fitzherbert club won the contest and now has until June 29th to prepare for the grand finals.
I think it would be great to have something like this in Canada and maybe one day we will!