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Young locals win with farm skills

East Coast FMG Junior Young Farmers of the Year Alex Wyeth and Jono Harris. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Story by Soumya Bhamidipati

Two Year 12 Rathkeale College students have taken out the title for 2021 East Coast FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year over the weekend.

Sixteen-year-olds Jono Harris and Alex Wyeth have competed for four years in a row. This year they topped the points table at the regional final, held at the Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds on Saturday.

The pair said the win was entirely unexpected.

“It’s a good activity to do. It’s a good time with friends, and agriculture is something we’re both passionate about,” Harris said.

Both students came from sheep and beef farms. They enjoyed the practical aspects of the competition, which involved chainsaws and cars.

Runner-up was awarded to Thomas Fontaine and Jock Bourke, also from Rathkeale College.

Both teams would compete at the grand final, to be held in Christchurch in July. They would each be up against 13 other teams from across the country.

“We’ll put in a bit of hard work, study, get some advice from teachers and all sorts and try and learn what they’re going to throw at us,” Wyeth said.

The awards aimed to introduce teenagers to the agriculture, food and fibre sector – from farming and growing, to fishing and horticulture.

Members competed in teams of two across seven regions, tackling eight theoretical and practical modules across various topics.

Past modules included animal anatomy, fencing, meat cut identification, gun safety, equine, agronomy, feed budgeting, and chainsaw assembly.

The top five teams then competed in a buzzer-style quiz.

Harris planned to work overseas after finishing school. Wyeth had his sights set on Smedley Station and Cadet Training Farm.

East Coast FMG Young Farmer of the Year runner-up Ashley Greer.

Wairarapa was also well-represented in the East Coast FMG Young Farmer of the Year, with PGG Wrightson Masterton Customer Service Representative Ashley Greer named as runner-up.

The second-time competitor lost to the first-placegetter by a mere five points and was proud of her achievement.

“I didn’t expect to place at all today so to come second and win two of the strainers, I’m feeling on top of the world at the moment,” she said.

“I actually went in with the attitude of just enjoying the day, so I was just going with the flow, enjoying the environment and the people and I really, really loved it.”

The 30-year-old had experience in the dairy industry, sheep and beef farming, and block managing. Now past the age limit, Greer said it was the best way to end her competition days.

“My partner, in-laws and my Dad were all here tonight and they were so proud. My mum was running a conference this weekend so she couldn’t make it, so I think she’ll probably crack a bottle of wine and be
crying at home.”

The eight regional finalists battled it out in eight modules and in two time and point races at Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds on Saturday. They also competed in a written exam and a buzzer quiz, proving themselves through four strainers – technology and innovation, environment, people, and food.

Greer took out the top points for the environment and people strainers.

New Zealand Young Farmers CEO Lynda Coppersmith said the 2021 competition had been one of the fiercest seasons yet.

“We can’t thank all of our amazing contestants, convenors and volunteers enough for their resilience, hard work and dedication,” she said.

“The level of competition this year is absolutely outstanding. We have some seriously talented members in our ranks and it is a privilege to watch them all represent the food and fibre sector and grow
as young farmers.”

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