The countdown is on for young farmers

by Nadine Porter

In three weeks, New Zealand will have a new FMG Young Farmer of the Year and for the first time in the 49-year-history of the contest it could well be a female from the city taking the title home.

Held in the Manawatu from July 6 to 8, this year’s contest is set to be one of the most fiercely contested in modern times with seven equally talented individuals putting their all on the line to win the country’s most prestigious agricultural competition.

Among them will be 24-year-old Karaka townie Lisa Kendall who is among the hot favourites to take the title. The urban lass who grew up on a lifestyle block has had a sensational year after convincingly beating out experienced opposition at he Northern Regional Final in all facets of the contest.

In only her first year of competing she is now facing the real possibility of taking home the title.

However, there are six equally determined Kiwis from around the country studying hard in the lead-up to the event to put their region on the map.

Included in that is another hot favourite, Hamish Best, from the East Coast of the North Island.

The 27-year-old has all skills on paper to create a massive headache for his peers should everything fall into place. The PGG Wrightson technical representative also has leadership acumen and will show that in the heat of battle. However, he faces an added expectation with East Coast winning every decade that ends with a seven since 1987.

Best friend and former flattie, Richard French, from the Waikato/Bay of Plenty will also be tough opposition having worked as a banker before coming back to farming. The 27-year-old will prove a handful having experienced top-level sport as a hockey representative for the Under-21 Central Districts hockey team. 

In an unusual twist this year, Taranaki/Manawatu representative James Lawn will compete alongside friends and former flatties Richard French and Hamish Best.

The dairy farmer has broad experience to back him up after travelling extensively throughout the world. He will also have an undoubted advantage with the Grand Final being hosted by the Manawatu — but will have to push all friendships aside to do it.

The most experienced contestant this year is Andrew Wiffen who will represent the Tasman region. 

The West Coast dairy farmer has competed in many regional finals and will be the most comfortable new entrant to grand final level. At 29 years old, he is also the veteran contestant, and will bring all that richness of knowledge to the fore.

Aorangi’s Arjan Van’t Klooster is expected to be in the top three come the end of the grand final, which is not surprising, given the region’s extraordinary strong record in recent years, having had Athol New and Matt Bell record back-to-back wins.

A highly driven entrepreneur and innovative dairy farmer, Arjan is focussed on doing it once and doing it right. 

Rounding out the magnificent seven is Otago/Southland’s Nigel Woodhead. 

Hailing from Milton in South Otago, the sheep and beef farmer also has extensive arable experience and could be the pride of his province should he be the first from his province to bring the trophy home since 1982.