Sunday, May 26, 2024

Young farmer Sam Waugh plays it again!

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Young Farmer of the Year Northern Regionals’ top three, from left, were Sam Waugh [second], Caleb Eady [first] and Zarnie Fergusson [third].
His days of competing in Young Farmer of the Year are now behind him, however there is still plenty of work to be done at Donald’s Farm, Whitford, as JON RAWLINSON discovered.

After placing second in the recent Young Farmer of the Year Northern Regionals, Sam Waugh is (in some ways) quite happy to be put out to pasture.

As manager of Whitford’s Donald’s Farm, the Franklin Young Farmer will continue to put his experiences to good use by fostering fresh crops of young primary industry professionals.

“This was my last year competing [in Young Farmer] due to aging out next year. I have had an amazing time with my involvement in both NZ Young Farmers and the contest,” he says.

“I have met amazing people and made some incredible lifelong friends throughout my journey, gained many new skills and developed more ways to think clearly under pressure. The number of networks the competition has provided has been immense [and] this will definitely help with my work.”

Gifted to NZ Young Farmers in 2018 by the estate of the late Donald Pearson, Donald’s Farm is a working dairy operation serving as an outdoor, hands-on classroom. In addition to helping to the urban/rural divide by regularly hosts school groups to educate students (especially those from urban backgrounds) about farming, it provides a springboard for those interested in pursuing careers across the primary sector.

Sam Waugh, manager of Whitford’s Donald’s Farm, at the recent Young Farmer of the Year Northern Regionals.

The farm is also a regular participant in the Open Farms programme and works with initiatives such as Nature’s Den and Trees for Survival Charitable Trust. Sustainability is at the heart of the farm’s goals, as demonstrated during the recent Auckland regional Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA).

Sam secured four prizes for Donald’s Farm. “It was a most rewarding experience for the whole team. We entered to get some feedback from experts in their fields about where the work we are doing in the environmental space, so to take out a number of category awards was an amazing surprise and very encouraging for the work we are doing here.”

While BEFA assesses organisations’ efforts across the board, Young Farmer of the Year is a more personal affair – participants compete in farm-related challenges designed to test their individual skills.

“I have treated the BFEA and NZ Young Farmer competitions quite separately as they have very different purposes and I had very different reasons for entering them,” Sam confirms.

After placing third in Young Farmer’s Northern Regionals in 2022, Sam was second (to fellow Frankliner, Lisa Kendall) last year. In April, he again finished as runner-up, this time to Northlander Caleb Eady.

“It was rather disappointing to find myself in the ‘bridesmaid’ position again, to come up just short was not the result I was wanting. However, it was a very tight regional final,” he reflects.

Sam Waugh. Photo Dairy NZ

“All of the competitors gave it a strong crack, which certainly pushed me on. Given there’s so many points on offer, for the competition to come down to only two points between us [Sam and Caleb] highlights how well fought it was.”

The Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final will take place in Hamilton, July 11-13, contested by seven regional winners.

“The Northern region has a tight group of members and I have known Caleb for a number of years, so I’ll definitely be cheering him on,” Sam adds.

“He’s a great competitor and an even better guy. I’ll be putting my full support behind him as he heads to the big showdown and I know he will give it a really good go.”

As for Sam, he has plenty to keep him busy back at home in east Auckland. A Fielding dairy farmer’s son, he studied at Lincoln University in Christchurch before moving to England where his big OE was cut short by Covid.

He has been helping others learn the ropes at Donald’s Farm. “One of the biggest assets of this farm is its location,” he said, soon after taking on the role of farm manager in 2020.

“Being so close to Auckland allows us to showcase agriculture to children who may, otherwise, never set foot on a farm. I think we make a difference in educating people about farming and bridging that rural/urban divide – the better we understand each other, the better our society will be.”

  • For more about Sam’s work and results from Young Farmer of the Year are accessible via www.youngfarmers.co.nz.

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