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First-time competitor earns a spot at FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final

A Pleasant Point Young Farmer is one step closer to winning one of New Zealand’s most prestigious farming awards after being crowned the Season 56 Aorangi FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

Gareth McKerchar was announced as the Aorangi FMG Young Farmer of the Year on Saturday evening, following two days of fierce competition in Kurow. Now, he gears up to take on six other regional finalists in the ultimate showdown at the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final, being held in Hamilton in July.

The weekend’s event was one of seven Regional Finals happening across Aotearoa between February and April. Details of what challenges would be thrown at them at the Aorangi event were kept under wraps from the 20 determined contestants.

“I’m stoked to get the win, my goal was to take out the trophy and earn a spot at the Grand Final. I had been studying in the lead-up to the weekend and gave it all I had, so it’s satisfying to see hard work paying off,” says McKerchar.

An Agri-Manager at Ravensdown, serving the Waitaki Valley/Omarama/Twizel area, McKerchar made his debut in this prestigious competition after joining the Pleasant Point Young Farmers Club in 2023.

“I’ve been involved in these events before, assisting with modules. After a few years watching contestants, I thought, ‘I can do this!'”

The Farmlet challenge stole the spotlight, offering contestants dedicated time to craft a miniature farm setup. Tasks included erecting fencing using a medley of fencing techniques, swinging a gate, plumbing a trough and k-line irrigator and planting a shelter belt.

“I really enjoyed the Farmlet challenge – it meant you could slow down and focus on producing work that you knew you were good at,” McKerchar explains.

Seeing his name at the top of the leaderboard going into Saturday night’s buzzer quiz, McKerchar adopted a cautious approach, aiming to safeguard his position.

“Seeing my name at the top was motivating, but one wrong answer reminded me to tread carefully. I wasn’t sure how far behind Sam was, so I opted to play it safe”.

Samuel Allen, aged 28, a member of the Pleasant Point Young Farmers, also made his debut in the competition and clinched second place. Meanwhile, Marcus Frost, aged 29, representing the Five Forks Young Farmers, secured the last spot on the podium.

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition is dedicated to showcasing the very best talent in New Zealand’s food and fibre sector. Now in its 56th year, the title of “FMG Young Farmer of the Year” is held up as one of the most prestigious farming awards in the country.

McKerchar is looking forward to competing at the Grand Final and will be using his network to upskill and build his knowledge.

“It’d be great to visit the Waikato Bay of Plenty region and brush up on my knowledge of the area. It’s a diverse region so we could be tested on anything. I’m lucky to have a strong network around me and I’ve already had offers of people keen to help me prep.”

For the third year in a row, James Clark and Jack Foster from Mount Hutt College were unbeatable, taking out the Aorangi FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year title for 2024. Meanwhile, the Duntroon School AgriKidsNZ team made up of Leah Wilson (11), Olivia Strachan (11) and Greer Neal (11) were the 2024 Aorangi AgriKidsNZ Champions.

Ella Hole and Shelby Henson from Geraldine High School placed second in the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year Competition.

Runner-up and third in the AgriKidsNZ contest were George Lash, Edward White and Henry Pottinger, all 12, from Longbeach School and Jack France (12), Arthur Redfern (12) and Henry Phillps (11) from Waihi School.

They have also been invited to July’s FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.

New Zealand Young Farmers Chief Executive Lynda Coppersmith says this year’s Grand Final is shaping up to be one of the best yet.

“Every year we continue to be blown away by the caliber of our FMG Young Farmer of the Year contestants, from our AgriKidsNZ participants through to those vying for the regional FMG Young Farmer of the Year title. Their knowledge, skills and passion for the industry is impressive and certainly leaves us excited for the future of our industry.”

New Zealand’s primary sector exports were worth more than $57 billion in the year to June 2023, accounting for 81.9% of New Zealand’s merchandise exports. NZ Young Farmers has been part of the backbone of this primary industry for nearly 100 years, nurturing and supporting talent while growing connected communities.

Coppersmith says it’s the regional communities and volunteers who have made the FMG Young Farmer of the Year the prestigious event it is today.

“We simply couldn’t do it without the tireless work of our local committees, communities and volunteers. These are people who support us year in, year out, and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who has played a part.”

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest is proudly supported by FMG, Ravensdown, WorkSafe, Ministry for Primary Industries, Milwaukee, Woolworths, Honda, Lincoln University, Massey University, PTS Logistics, New Holland and Bushbuck.

 

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