Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Last chance at rural stardom for young Whitford farmer 

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Sam Waugh on Donald’s Farm in Whitford.

A young Auckland farmer is in it to win it after two years of coming in second.

Last weekend marked 31-year-old Whitford-based Sam Waugh’s last chance to compete at the highly anticipated Northern FMG Young Farmer of the Year Regional Final. The two-day contest was held from April 12-13 at Mangakahia Sports and Community Complex in Poroti in Whangārei.

It’s the seventh and final regional competition in the race to find New Zealand’s top young farmers for 2024. Six other regional finals have taken place across Aotearoa between February and April, with only the top contestants qualifying for a spot at the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final, being held in Hamilton in July.

Waugh is among 80 AgriKidsNZ, FMG Junior Young Farmer and FMG Young Farmer contestants from Auckland and Northland vying for this year’s Northern regional contest. Placing second at last year’s contest has only fuelled his determination to give it all he’s got.

Waugh spends his days managing 125 cows on the NZ Young Farmer-owned educational dairy farm ‘Donald’s Farm’ in Whitford, Auckland. Working with several schools in the region, Waugh and his team connect students to not just farming but the wider food and fibre sector.

Sam Waugh competing at the Season 55 Northern Regional Final.

Reflecting on his decade as a Young Farmer’s leader and member, Waugh says the only piece of advice he would give to passionate young farmers is to embrace discomfort, not just in the competition but in life.

“Often the ones who are nervous to give it a go get the most out of it. Be comfortable being uncomfortable, because that’s where you grow the most. I know I have, at least,” says Waugh.

Convenor and Whangarei Young Farmers member Ira Martinac says contestants will need to showcase a wide breadth of knowledge if they want to progress to the grand final.

Contestants will compete in one of three categories depending on their age. Primary school students, some as young as eight, can enter the AgriKidsNZ contest, while high school students, working in teams of two, are eligible for the FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year competition. Those who’ve left school compete alone for a shot at rural stardom in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

NZ Young Farmers chief executive Lynda Coppersmith says it’s encouraging to see a high number of entries into this year’s competition, with 43 per cent of contestants being first-timers.

“This is the 56th season of FMG New Zealand Young Farmers and it’s shaping up to be one of our best yet with many new faces including a large number of primary students entering our AgriKidsNZ competition. It just goes to show the future of farming is in good hands,” says Coppersmith.

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