Couple to compete in Young Farmers final

by Mike Isle

A Selwyn couple will go head to head in a battle for household bragging rights in the Tasman regional final of this year’s Young Farmer of the Year contest.

The Tasman regional final of the 2018 FMG Young Farmers Competition is being held at Innovation Park in Templeton on April 7, with a prize pool of $21,000 up for grabs.

Partners Vanessa Robinson (24) and Martin Bates (29) live on a 140 hectare farm in Charing Cross where they contract milk 360 Jersey cross cows for Martin’s parents.

Vanessa also juggles that job with being a farm solutions manager at LIC in Canterbury, while Martin is also a qualified builder, having built among other things the cowshed they currently milk in.

The pair met three years ago as members of New Zealand Young Farmers Dunsandel branch.

This will be the first regional final for Vanessa and Martin. Both have previously competed in district contests.

The pair say they are looking forward to competing against each other, though they both know they are up against some strong competitors.

Martin believes that being a couple may in fact be one of their strengths, when it comes to the competition.

“I guess I may be a little more experienced on the practical side than Vanessa. But she is stronger on the theory. So, we help each other out when training for the competitions,” Martin said.

Vanessa, whom Martin freely admits is better at the bookwork, spends the evenings throwing questions Martin’s way, while during the day Martin returns the favour by taking Vanessa through general maintenance and other farming duties.

The couple’s path to the final is vastly different, yet in one aspect remarkably similar.

Vanessa was born in Papakura in the North Island and her interest in farming stemmed from spending holidays on farms owned by her aunts and uncles.

She gained a bachelor of agriscience and a master of science from Massey University.

Her last semester was at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada. She moved to Dunsandel in 2015.

Martin has also spent time in Canada, though he was based in Saskatchewan, harvesting grain crops and hay. Previously he had worked on his parent’s dairy farm, then as a commercial builder in Christchurch, working on anything from warehouses to high-rises.

But it was the stint in Saskatchewan that rekindled his interest in farming, and on his return from Canada, he too became involved with NZ Young Farmers in Dunsandel, where he met Vanessa.

The pair share mutual interests outside of farming. Both like hunting and fishing, though Vanessa can add tramping and multi-sporting to her range of interests.

However, for the moment the mutual focus is on the upcoming regional finals.

Vanessa says entering the competition was very much a joint decision.

“We both wanted to enter and we both made it through to the regional final. I entered to learn and challenge myself. It also fits in with my motto and the life advice someone gave me: take every opportunity.”

Martin’s reason for entering is like the man himself—pragmatic and down-to-earth: “I don’t enjoy sitting on the sidelines watching people do things I can do.”

That may well be the case. But it is a sure bet that come competition time Martin will be keeping a close eye on one competitor, his ‘closest’ competitor, Vanessa.