Rural round-up


The risks of global worming:

FOR decades, the overuse of antibiotics has encouraged the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria which, though they have never broken out and caused an epidemic in the way that was once feared, have nevertheless been responsible for many deaths that might otherwise have been avoided. Now something similar seems to be happening in agriculture. The overuse of drugs against parasitic worms which infest stock animals means that these, too, are becoming drug-resistant. That is bad for the animals’ health and welfare, and equally bad for farmers’ profits.

This, at least, is the conclusion drawn by Ray Kaplan, a parasitologist at the University of Georgia who has just published a review of research on the problem. His results, which appear in Veterinary Parasitology, make grim reading. . .

Young man on a mission – Sally Rae:

Tangaroa Walker is a young man with a very clear and bold vision for his future.   

By the time he is 40, Mr Walker (22) wants to own holiday homes in Queenstown and Mt Maunganui, a dairy farm in Southland and be living on a beef farm at Whakamarama, in the Bay of Plenty, the area where he grew up.   

They might be hefty goals but, given what the Southland-based lower order sharemilker has already achieved, you get the feeling he will most likely achieve them . . .

Dad’s death led to organis shift – Sally Rae:

Southland dairy farmer Robin Greer always had a desire to    process his own milk.   

He did some research and spent one day a week for 18 months in his kitchen, making cheese from recipes he found on the internet and in books.   

 He taught himself to make most of the cheeses now produced at the factory he and his wife Lois established on their farm.

They market their products – milk, cheese and yoghurt – throughout New Zealand, under the Retro Organics label, and  are looking at export opportunities. . .

Tests uncover way to cut use of 1080 poison – Gerald Piddock:

Landcare Research scientists are cautiously optimistic they have discovered a method of killing rabbits as effective as current methods but using significantly less 1080 poison. 

    The breakthrough came after Landcare and the Otago Regional Council carried out experiments on two high country stations in Central Otago last winter. 

    The experiments were based around refining how bait was sown on rabbit-prone country from fixed-wing aircraft by altering the volume of bait used for rabbit control. . .

Helicopters only way to cull deer:

It took sweat, precision and millions of dollars to make Highland Cuisine Ltd a venison exporter but owner Bill Hales fears a game council will put its deer procurement and customer relationships to the sword.

Parliament is mulling legislation for the council as part of a national wild game management strategy.

Submissions to the bill have poured in to the Environment and Local Government select committee, including those dismissing it as excess political baggage from MP Peter Dunne.

Yes, the council and wild game strategy is part of the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with Dunne’s one-man United Future Party. But that political history doesn’t change much for people like Hales. . .

Young agribusiness team from Massey competes in China – Pasture to Profit:

Massey University(NZ) had a team competing in theInternational Food and Agribusiness Management Association student case study competition, held in Shanghai,China.

The competition is in its 7thyear and is held in conjunction with the IFAMA annual forum and symposium. The late “Daniel Conforte” (an inspirational lecturer at Massey University) had a long standing association with IFAMA and at the opening of the Symposium was made a fellow of IFAMA the highest honour, a well deserved tribute recognising his passion and contribution to the organisation.  . .

Young farmer contest announces first ever patron:

A career in education and working with young people provided an excellent foundation for Dr Warwick Scott’s involvement with The National Bank Young Farmer Contest.

After 12 years of close association with the event, Dr Scott has recently been appointed as the first Contest Patron.

“I am deeply honoured,” he says. “It is a privilege to work with this amazing event which, year after year, showcases the on-going talent New Zealand has among its young famers, both men and women.”

ANZ Bank, DairyNZ partner on financial benchmarking of farms – Peter Kerr:

DairyNZ is partnering with Australia & New Zealand Banking Group to boost the financial performance of dairy farms.

Under a memorandum of understanding, DairyNZ’s business performance analysis tool, DairyBase, will be available to ANZ Bank economists and agri managers when working with farmers, they said in a statement.

DairyBase consolidates the financial results from more than 1,800 farmers, allowing like with like comparisons. Some 41% of dairy farmers currently use benchmarking . . .

First ever ‘Green 50’ list shows booming green sector:

New Zealand’s first definitive list of companies making money improving the environment has just been launched by strategic research company New River.

Top of the New River Green 50 list is Auckland-based Chem Recovery, which recovers and recycles heavy metals to produce 99.9 per cent pure re-usable metals; followed by Stonewood Homes, builder of a 7-star green building; and Reid Technology, a New Zealand leader in solar power. Other companies on the list include Flotech, a technology pioneer allowing organic waste to be converted into methane for pipeline gas; and Outgro an innovative fetiliser company enabling farmers to reduce phosphorous and nitrogen run-off into waterways while increasing their yields. . .

Winner proof you don’t have to be one to be one


Young farmers used to have a recruitment slogan you don’t have to be one to be one.

It was aimed at attracting people who weren’t farmers but would enjoy and contribute to the organisation.

I don’t think they use the slogan any more but the winner of this year’s National Bank Young Farmer contest, Michael Lilley, is proof it still applies.

He’s a rural vet, though he grew up on a farm and hopes to combine his vet work with farming in the future.

He’s not only an example you don’t have to be a farmer to be in Young Farmers, but also that farming by itself isn’t the only road to farming.

Some people use dairying to save enough to invest in another business and some like Michael, use another career to help them into farming.

RivettingKate Taylor has more on the contest here.

Young Farmer Grand Final


The 44th National Bank Young Farmer Contest Grand Final opened in Dunedin on Wednesday.

Since then contestants have had their intellectual and physical skills tested and tonight they face their final test.

Among them is  Northern’s representative, Katherine Tucker, who is only the third woman to reach a final.

Other contestants are Otago/Southland’s Pete Gardyne, Sam Williams from the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Region, Tasman’s Michael Lilley and Andrew Scott from the Aorangi Region, who have all reached the final before. the other two finalists are Tony Dowman from the East Coast Region and Taranaki/Manawatu’s Brad Lewis.

RivettingKateTaylor is there and has photos.

Rural round-up


Top Sheep Breeding Operation Wins Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Well-known Wairarapa hill-country sheep and beef farm Wairere Station has been named Supreme winner of the 2012 Greater Wellington Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Owned by the Derek Daniell Trust and situated north east of Masterton, the 1206ha property is home to an internationally recognised Romney sheep stud.

Ballance Farm Environment Award (BFEA) judges described Wairere as“a sustainable, innovative and financially-sound farming operation”.

“Strong consideration has always been given to conservation practices alongside the ability to be a leading entrepreneur of sheep genetics in New Zealand.” . . .

Cow pooling and homekill:

With ‘cow pooling’ in the spotlight following TV One’s Sunday programme, Federated Farmers Rural Butchers believes it has a role to play in reconnecting the public to their food.

“From what I saw on Sunday last night, ‘cow pooling’ seemed legitimate,” says Mike Hanson, Federated Farmers Rural Butchers chairperson.

“The impression I got was that people owned the farm animal and had it processed through a licensed abattoir. If that’s the case the meat is legitimate. So much so, they’ll even pay a Beef+Lamb NZ levy on it. . .

Go Young Farmer:

After 22 District Finals and seven Regional Finals featuring New Zealand’s best young farming talent, The National Bank Young Farmer Contest is down to the last seven Contestants.  They’ll battle it out in Dunedin from 23 May – 26 May 2012 to see who will take the title. 

There’ll be plenty of pressure on the seven Grand Finalists.  And when the going gets tough, a bit of support can make all the difference. . .

Fortunately, even if you can’t be in Dunedin for the Grand Final, you can still cheer on your favourite contestant.

The National Bank’s website is the next best thing to being there.


Differences more apparent than real – Allan Barber:

In spite of recent disagreements, most notably between Keith Cooper of Silver Fern Farms and Beef and Lamb NZ, there doesn’t appear to be too much wrong with relationships between meat companies and the industry good organisation representing sheep and beef farmers

Cooper has listed several bones of contention which pushed him to the point of resigning from the B&LNZ board – the proposal for PGP funding had several aspects which cut across FarmIQ, the launch of the Suretrim industry trim standard went ahead without getting full commitment from the processors, and, in his own words, the straw that broke the camel’s back was an article in the Christchurch Press in late January quoting B&LNZ chairman Mike Petersen on the sustainability of lamb prices. . .

Crafar farms sale appears to be over at last – Allan Barber:

The sale of 16 assorted, somewhat rundown dairy farms to the Chinese buyer, Shanghai Pengxin, looks as though it can finally go ahead, although there is still talk of an appeal by the group headed by Sir Michael Fay.

It is hard to see on what basis an appeal could be successful, because the OIO tightened its criteria for recommending the Chinese bid which was already required to jump through more hoops than any previous application for foreign ownership. The Ministers were satisfied by the OIO’s changes and would clearly have taken great care not to land the Government in any more embarrassment over the issue. . .

Will Grayling Young Farmer of Year


Will Grayling is the 2011 Young Farmer of the Year.

Twenty five year old Will from the Pendarves Club was representing the Aorangi Region. He’s a manager on a 1600 cow dairy farm in Ashburton and is due to marry Kim in December this year. He has a Masters of Applied Science from Lincoln University and was a first time Contestant at Grand Final level.

It didn’t look like it was going to be Will’s night earlier on and even he was worried that the title could be out of his grasp after he made some mistakes in the early question buzzer rounds.

“I thought it was slipping away several times – I got off to a rough start.”

In the end though, his all-round performance secured him the win; he took out the AGMARDT Agri-business Challenge after delivering a presentation on the supply of colostrum earlier in the week. He received an AGMARDT Scholarship towards a career development programme valued at $15,000. He also won the Lincoln University Agri-growth Challenge, taking away a Lincoln University conference package for an industry related conference – domestically or internationally to the value of $8,000. It was a tight race though; Will won the Challenge by only .2 of a mark over Tim van de Molen.

Will also won a $62,000 Grand Final prize package that includes 12 month’s complimentary use of an Isuzu D-Max valued at approximately $15,000, a Honda TRX420FPM power steer four-wheel drive manual ATV $ valued at 15,000, $10,000 cash from The National Bank, quality products and services from Ravensdown to the value of $7,000, a selection of quality outdoor power equipment from ECHO to the value of $7,000, a Lincoln University scholarship for study towards a Specialist Masters of Professional Studies or entry to the Kellogg Programme valued at $5,000, an AGMARDT Scholarship towards a career development programme valued at $2,000 and a range of Swanndri clothing to the value of $1,000.Isuzu Agri-Sports winner – 12 month’s complimentary use of a Isuzu D-Max valued at $15,000.

RivettingKateTaylor has update #3 on the contest and update #4 with photos of the winner..

When my farmer was runner up in the 10th contest he won a Honda 90 motorbike. The winner, Steve Ryan who very sadly died about 10 years later, got a tractor and a trip round the world.

In those days, when there were fewer alternative social and leadership opportunites for rural youth, Young Farmers had about 7,000 members.

Membership dropped to about 1,500 a few years ago but that was its nadir. It has turned around and is increasing again.

Hopkins hanging up mic after 21 years as voice of Young Farmer Contest


The grand final of the National Bank Young Farmer contest tonight will be the last one for Jim Hopkins who’s been the voice of the contest for 21 years.

If you only ever watch the show on television you would have only got a glimpse of or a few words from Jim who commentates the practical day. It’s quite a challenge, requiring good knowledge of the contestants and what they’re doing as well as a sense of humour and quick wit.

Jim’s had to show a more serious side compeering the regional finals and he’s needed all his skills to warm up the audience before the filming of the grand final and keep them warmed up during sometimes long pauses in filming.

Jim’s left big gumboots to fill and the man tasked with filling them is Craig Wiggins  who has been  attending Regional Finals.

“I’m really looking forward to stepping into the role; it’s going to be great watching the Contestants improve over the years and to see our youth being further educated in agriculture.”

Craig, a former mechanic by trade, brings a long history of announcing to the role; he’s the main announcer for New Zealand Rodeo and travels the country announcing around 35 rodeos a year. Craig has also been a jet sprints commentator and has acted as Master of Ceremonies at many different events during his announcing career. He has television and radio experience as a result of his career too.

Originally off a 300 hectare sheep and beef unit in Raetihi, Craig now lives near Ashburton in Mid Canterbury on a 28 hectare horse training and dairy grazing property. Craig’s background in agriculture meant he jumped at the chance to be a part of the iconic Contest.

“I’ve always been an avid follower of The National Bank Young Farmer Contest, my farming background means it’s something that has always appealed to me.”

Hopkins fans will still be able to tune into his regular Monday chats with Jamie Mackay on the Farming Show.

The grand final is being held in Masterton. RivettingKate Taylor has progress reports here,  here and here.

Rural round-up


Farming editor wins premier award

Dominion Post farming editor Jon Morgan is this year’s Landcorp Agricultural Communicator of the Year.

He was selected ahead of five other nominees from throughout the agriculture sector and was presented with the award at a dinner in Hamilton last night.

Morgan has worked as a reporter or sub-editor for 45 years on newspapers in New Zealand and Australia. He joined The Dominion in 1988 as a news editor and has been farming editor of The Dominion and then the Dominion Post for the past 10 years.

This is a well desered win for a journalist whose writing does a lot to bridge the rural-urban divide.

Winners accentuate the positive – Jon Morgan:

When Gisborne sheep and beef farmers’ son Richard Greaves met Manawatu dairy farmers’ daughter Joanna Olsen at university, they agreed on two goals in life. They wanted to own a farm and they wanted four children.

Twelve years later, they can tick off one of them: three girls and a boy aged under six race around their home.

The second aim is in sight too. They expect to have $3 million of equity within seven years, enough to buy an 800-cow farm.

Amazingly, the couple, who sharemilk at Sherwood in Central Hawke’s Bay, have been in dairying just four years.

5 -year project roaring success – Sally rae:

When Shane and Leona Trimble bought a Hampden sheep and beef farm five years ago, they could see the potential for a deer conversion.

Shifting to North Otago was a big move for the couple and their children,who previously lived at Haldon Station – a vast, isolated property in the Mackenzie Basin . . .

Pick me! Pick me! :

Central Otago apple growers are vying for their produce to be eaten by the Australian Prime Minister if New Zealand Prime Minster John Key wins a bet he made earlier this week on the Rugby World Cup.

Mr Key became the first New Zealand leader to address the Australian Federal Parliament in Australia on Monday and afterwards propositioned Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard with a bet which could see the loser eating an apple produced in the winning country . . .

Contest involves a lot of prep

Winton sheep stud farm stock manager HAYDEN PETER talks about the countdown to the final of the Young Farmer Contest, just over a week away.

The days appear to be flashing past much faster now. After the regional final it seemed like the final was ages away but, in a week, I’ll be in Masterton. And that’s when the really pressure comes on.

The challenge isn’t just to turn up on the day, having done some study and hoping for the best for the final. And there’s not just the study and preparation, I’ve also had to submit work in advance . . .

Applause, another record falls

It is seldom that the public claps a sale of store sheep but that is what happened at Stortford Lodge last week when a capital stock line of 384 2-tooth ewes, SIL163%, were knocked down at $310.
The same vendors (story and picture on P11) received $225 twice for their 5-year lines and some mixed age fetched $222, PGG Wrightson livestock manager Vern Wiggins said. . .

Overseas buy-up of South Island farms

If New Zealand was to stop foreign investment into its farm land then the agricultural sector would have to up its performance to attract on shore capital or be prepared for poor returns and the major sector of the economy underperforming.

Before making a decision on whether foreign investment in New Zealand agricultural land was good, consideration should be given as to whether it was needed, head of agribusiness BNZ Partners Richard Bowman cautioned.

In recent months foreign investment had been relatively rampant with German investment funds spending a further $14 million buying two Southland farms with another $4 million tagged for on-farm capital investment.

Growers toil to yield the good oil – Peter Watson:

Ed Scott is in manic mode.

Plastic crates of freshly picked olives are stacking up outside his press and require his attention. He jumps off his tractor and hurries in to check how processing is going, emerging a few minutes later with his moustache stained from the virgin oil he has just sampled.

He was up until 1am feeding the latest lot of fruit through, and faces another long day as the mechanical harvester shakes off tonnes more from his 4500-tree grove near Neudorf. With an expected crop of 40 to 50 tonnes – almost double last year’s total – he will be flat out processing the harvest until the end of this week . . .

Little asparagus crop to spare – Jill Galloway:

Asparagus plantings in New Zealand almost need to double to meet the demand, says George Turney, a grower at Mangaweka in Rangitikei.

Chairman of the Asparagus Council, he grows 160 hectares of the crop in the Kawhatau Valley and is a keen supporter of the vegetable.

“There’s a crisis in the industry. There is not enough product for export, local market and processing.”

The asparagus crop was 600 hectares at present, but needed to grow to about 1000 hectares to meet demand, he said. . .

If we could talk to the animals :

 It is 250 years since veterinary education began in Lyon, France. JILL GALLOWAY talks to the head of Massey University’s vet school about 2011, the Year of Veterinary Science.

Animal science and human medicine will link more closely in future, predicts Massey University’s head of the Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Frazer Allan.

When veterinary science began in 1761, “it was originally set up to look at diseases of livestock, such as rinderpest, a cattle plague, and a lot has happened since then.” . . .

Crafar’s strike deal with receivers – Andrea Fox:

Crafar farms patriarch Allan Crafar says his family has reached an agreement with receivers that “clears the air” and allows family members to stay in their Reporoa homes for now.

Crafar said the deal would allow the family to start “organising the  finance … to redeem the debt.” 

He declined to discuss the details.

The family’s nearly 8000ha dairy farming estate across the Central North Island was put into receivership by banks and financiers nearly two years ago, owing around $200 million.

Crafar said redeeming the debt did not mean buying back the farms, but paying off the debt. . .

Grant Mc Naughton won but where was Jim?


Grant McNaughton, a farm consultant from Oamaru but representing the Tasman Region, is the 2010 National Bank Young Farmer of the Year.

It was his second and final attempt at the title. Contestants can make multiple appearances at District and Regional level but are limited to two attempts in the Grand Final.

Home town favourite, Pete Gardyne, who farms sheep and beef near Gore came a well deserved second.

The show was broadcast live at 7.30 when, as Gravedodger pointed out in a comment last week, most people would have been watching the rugby. We tuned in to the delayed broadcast and while I was interested in what we saw, I was left with a question about what, or more to the point who, we didn’t see.

Where was Jim Hopkins?

He’s the one who goes to all the regional finals where does a commentary on the practicals and compeers the evening show. He’s also the man with the roving mic on duty for the three days of events at the Grand Final and the one who warms the audience up for the evening show before the cameras roll.

Yet you’d had had to been watching the broadcast very closely last night to catch a glimpse of him.

The show’s about the contestants not Jim, but given what an integral part he is of every other section of the contest you’d think there might be more than a blink-and-you’d-miss-it shot of him in the broadcast.

Kate Taylor has been at the final and blogs on it here.

Gore knows how to organise a party


Auckland should take a lesson from the south.

While our biggest city can’t make a decision about where to hold a party, the small town of Gore is hosting rural New Zealand’s premiere contest and will be serving dinner to more than 1300 people tomorrow night.

It’s the finale of the National Bank Young Farmer competition.

The seven contestants have been through district and regional competitions and have been in Gore since Wednesday using brains and brawn in a contest of intellectual and physical skill. Their intelligence, fitness, personalities, farming and general knowledge, ingenuity and public speaking skills are being tested.

The contest is a showcase of Young Farmers and farming.

One of its strengths is that it moves around the country and host towns go to great effort to involved the community and ensure that each contest is better than the previous one.

Whoever, wins tomorrow, the locals can be satisfied that Gore hosted a great show.

Jamie Mackay broadcast today’s Farming Show from  the practical competition. One of those he interviewed was Kate Taylor who’s in charge of media liaison and is blogging about the contest.

The show will be broadcast on TVNZ6 at 7.30 tomorrow and highlights will screen on TV1 at 10pm.

Tuesday’s answers


Monday’s questions were:

1.Who wrote Tall Tales (Some True)?

2. Who said:” I can still deliver the goods because I can honestly say I’ve got everything I had 20 years ago….it’s just all a bit lower”?

3. Which is the highest mountain in the Americas?

4.Who won the first Skellerup Young Farmer of the Year contest and who won this year’s National Bank Young Farmer title??

5. What is a shrievalty?

Paul T gets the electronic bunch of flowers for getting 4 1/2 right; Gravedodger got two correct, he earned a bonus for admitting he hadn’t read one of the questions correctly and another for doing penance; Ray gets a bonus for honesty and PDM gets one for humour.

The answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »

Monday’s quiz


1.Who wrote Tall Tales (Some True)?

2. Who said:” I can still deliver the goods because I can honestly say I’ve got everything I had 20 years ago….it’s just all a bit lower”?

3. Which is the highest mountain in the Americas?

4.Who won the first Skellerup Young Farmer of the Year contest and who won this year’s National Bank Young Farmer title?

5. What is a shrievalty?

South Island 1st & 2nd in Young Farmer contest


Tim O’Sullivan of Pleasant Point, representing the Aorangi Region, is the 1009 National Bank Young Farmer of the year.

Richard Copland from Gore, representing the Otago-Southland Region was runner-up just four points behind.

rivettingKate Taylor gives a first hand report.

The Manawatu Standard’s report is here.

Young Farmer of the Year underway


When my farmer came second in the Young Farmer of the Year contest he won a motorbike.

Some 30 years later the prize pool is worth more but the seriousness with which the contestants take the contest hasn’t changed.

And with good reason because the contest tests their intellectual and physical skills, public speaking, farming and general knowledge, personality and sense of humour.

One of the strengths of the contest is the way it moves around the country and involves the community which hosts it. Another is that it gives a taste of the physical and intellectual skills which modern farmign requires.

The grand final started in Palmerston North yesterday and finishes tomorrow . Kate Taylor is there   but she’s not happy with TVNZ. Farmgirl has also posted on the contest.

Urban-rural rift’s a myth


The urban-rural rift  is a myth a forum organised by the Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science concluded. But there is tension where country and town conflict in lifestyle land.

A day-long discussion at Massey University, to look at the link between town and country, was set against the backdrop of the sale in the past year of 46,000 hectares of farmland in lifestyle blocks of less than four hectares.

About 100 scientists, academics, farmers, students, lobbyists and other interested observers at the event organised by the Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science heard from nine speakers – a politician, an historian, a bureaucrat, an economist, a walkways commission member, a geography professor, a local government planner, a farmer and an environmental manager.

Historian Jock Phillips looked at how we got to where we are.

As New Zealand’s population changed from being rural to urban last century a romantic myth began to grow of the farmer as a larger-than-life sporting and war hero.

This lasted till the 1980s when it began to disintegrate amidst the humour of the Footrot Flats cartoon and television’s Fred Dagg.

A rift began to open, according to Dr Phillips. Rural people did not like being made fun of and at the same time two issues arose that further polarised town and country.

They were the 1981 Springbok Tour and homosexual law reform.

“These cultural issues became a battleground where people came to terms with their rural and urban identities,” he said.

These issues are often given as ones on which there was an urban-rural divide. There may be figures to back up this contention but anecdotal evidence suggests country people’s views weren’t markedly differnt from those in town.

The rift had closed in recent years as farmers had learnt to take on urban values, he said.

For example, country shows had changed to appeal to town visitors – where once pigs were shown in pens now they raced over obstacle courses.

But if this goes too far shows lose their rural character and they become just another event. We went to the Melbourne Show last year, most of it was just side shows and entertainment with stock and country exhibits looking like an after thought. The Upper Clutha Show in Wanaka hs got it right – with high quality exhibits which appeal to town and country yet it still retains its rural character.

City life and values had become central and country people had been forced to turn to that world. They could no longer assume their children would want to stay on the land.

One speaker at the AGMARDT breakfast at last week’s National Bank Young Farmer contest said in the old days the bright offspring were sent away to the city and the slower ones stayed back on the farm, but it’s the other way round now 🙂

Dr Phillips said that while the physical rural image had been dented it had gained values of science, technical knowledge, education and specialisation.

“It is the making of modern agriculture and horticulture.”

However, some stereotypes still remained in the thinking of urban people.

Many children had a Fred Dagg image of farming and did not see it as a viable career and some city dwellers yearned to escape to the country, seeing it as a “geriatric rest home”.

I wouldn’t think many of today’s children recognise Fred Dagg because it’s more than 30 years since John Clark took the character across the Tasman. As for a resthome, if that’s what you want surely you’d be better in town close to public transport and healthcare?

Other address came from Kapiti Coast District Council strategy planner Gael Ferguson and Rangitikei sheep and beef farmer Ruth Rainey.

Read the rest of this entry »

Young Farmers take over Ashvegas


When the then Skellerup Young Farmer of the Year contest moved from radio to television the TV people said the contest would have to be filmed in a studio in Wellington.

The Young Farmers’ organising committee said no, that would kill the contest, it must stay in the reigons. They won and the contest moves round each of Young Farmers’ seven regions, alternating between North & South Islands each year.

The result is rivalry not just between contestants but between regions who ensure they have the best Grand Final possible. In the process they attract a lot of local support and visitors from all over the country.

This year’s final of what is now the National Bank Young Farmer Contest  is taking place in Ashburton. Tickets to tomorrow night’s show and dinner sold out weeks ago and there isn’t a spare bed to be had for miles around. It’s great for the local economy, for the contest and Young Farmers.

The programme started on Wednesday with a north vs south rural challenge in the town’s main street. It was won by the South Islanders, who may have had an at-home advantage for the swede tossing.

The contest got more serious yesterday with theoretical and technical challenges and the presentation of a project on market innovation.

Last night’s three minute prepared speeches covered a variety of topics including Heros: Hone Heke or Hopkins? It’s a personal choice; My Frist Time and Taking An Agricultural Approach to Raising Children.

Today it’s all go on the Ashburton Domain for the practical competition which carries a lot of points and may determine the winner because, if as happened last year there is a tie at the end, the title goes to the one with the most points in the practical.

Count Down to Nat Bank Young Farmer Contest


The seven finalists in the National Bank Young Farmer Contest  have been working for months to prepare themselves for the competition which starts in Ashburton on Thursday.

Aorangi finalist Nick Webster is hoping to better his own and his father’s places in previous contests. Nick, a partner in the family’s cropping farm in North Otago, was third in the final three years ago and Jock was second in what was then called the Skellerup Young Farmer of the Year in the 1970s.

The Otago Southland finalist Kyle Thorburn was sixth in last year’s final. The other finalists are Grant Charteris (East Coast), James Donaldson (Northern), Steve Knight (Tasman), Fraser McGougan (Waikato-Bay of Plenty) andDavid Skiffington (Taranaki-Manawatu).

Judges will be testing them on a combination of farming knowledge, business, public speaking, practical and personal skills and intelligence – the range of skills and abilities modern farmers need to succeed.

At stake is $82,185 worth of prizes for the winner including a Ford Ranger four-wheel-drive utility, a Honda four-wheel-drive ATV, a selection of Echo equipment, cash from the National Bank, Ravensdown fertiliser and Swanndri clothing.

The total prize package for the final of $160,810 includes a Lincoln University Scholarship and the winner of the Market Innovation Challenge receives an AGARDT scholarship for the FAME programme valued at $28,125.

Buts its not just about what they might win, the finalists have come through tough district and regional contests so getting to the contest is an achievement in itself; and the winner gets not just the prizes but the kudos which goes with being the country’s top Young Farmer.

Allomes win Sharemilker of Year


When you’re overseas it is a little disconcerting to realise how little New Zealand features in other countries’ media. Tonight I’m feeling the same way about rural news in our own media.

 The Sharemilker of the Year competition took place at the weekend. Had I not been listening to the Farming Show at lunchtime and heard Jamie McKay interviewing Ben Allomes, who with his wife Nicky, won the national title I wouldn’t have known anything about it.

 Ben aged 30 is National President of Young farmers and a two-time finalist in the National bank Young Farmer contest. He and Nicky have purchased their first farm, 50% share milk 400 cows on one farm, 250 cows on another and lease a 140 hectare beef block. They also have three children aged 4, 2 and nine months.


A Dominion profile   (published when they won the regional final in March) explains how they wrote down their goals.

One was to have $1 million in assets in 10 years. “We wrote it down but we didn’t tell anyone,” he says. “We didn’t want to hear other people’s negative views. But seeing it in print made us believe it was possible.”


Later, they attended a Dexcel strategic management course and wrote a new mission statement: “To have a happy healthy family and a low-stress sustainable farming business providing freedom and security.” They were both 22.

By dint of heard work they are well on their way to achieving their goals and their story is one which ought to appeal to town and country alike.

While they are proud of their achievements, they don’t want people to get the impression it has all come easy. “We’ve had to work hard and make sacrifices,” Mrs Allomes says.

“While other people our age were spending their money on their social lives, travelling overseas and buying flash cars, we were staying at home and putting aside every penny. We could spend up now, but that will come later. We think we can make better use of our money on the farm for now.”

“We want to enjoy our time with our kids now,” Mr Allomes says. “That’s the beauty of working on a farm; it’s your home as well as your workplace. And we want our children to be brought up knowing what hard work is all about; that money has to be earned, not taken for granted.”

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