James Robertson, winner of the 51st Young Farmer of the Year Awards with his partner Megan

Winner makes history

by Ann van Engelen

James Robertson, a business graduate, has made history being the youngest competitor to be named the 51st FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition.

“When my name was called out, I went into shock. I just can’t believe it — it’s a dream come true. It has always been a goal of mine to win this title,” said James.

The 22-year-old Auckland-based business graduate grew up on a 200 cow dairy farm in Waikato and works for Fonterra in its trade strategy team. His involvement with NZ Young Farmers started during high school.

“The opportunities in the agri-food sector are endless, even if you live in the city. You just have to be passionate,” he said.

“The work NZ Young Farmers does in schools to show students the diverse range of careers in agriculture is extremely important. I probably wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for my involvement with NZ Young Farmers early on.”

The victory was the culmination of days of gruelling practical and technical challenges, which tested their skills, knowledge and stamina. Competitors had to drive a large grape harvester, make sausages, assess health and safety risks using a virtual reality simulator, install an irrigation system for fruit trees, market a line of sheep and sit an agri-business exam. James won a prize package worth at least $75,000, including a trip to Ireland and he took out the FMG People’s Choice Award.

Central Hawke’s Bay technical field representative Joseph Watts gained second place, and Waikato vet Emma Dangen came third and picked up the award for championing environmental best practice. Canterbury competitor Georgie Lindsay was unplaced in the competition.

The contest is supported by FMG, Ravensdown, Honda, WorkSafe, Zero Harm Farm, STIHL, Lincoln University, Massey University, Southfuels, Northfuels, Betacraft and New Holland.