So close on second go
Cam Brown says he will always be known as the guy who was second in the grand final of the Young Farmer Contest.
He was one of seven regional winners who won a place in the final. He was the winner of the Manawatu-Taranaki final.
Brown is competitive. He likes to do everything correctly and win.
"I lost by five points. I thought afterwards about places I could have made up those points. But I knew I'd given it my best shot in the contest."
The grand final was a compressed contest this year. Brown had been in the final in Masterton in 2011 and it had been held during 3-1/2 days. This time it was the same stuff that had to be covered, but over 2-1/2 days. It was tough.
So this was Brown's second shot at the final, and his last go. The rules say you can enter only twice.
"Second time in the final, you know what to expect - that it will be incredibly difficult and hard."
It is all about brains and brawn.
There was a head-to-head challenge in Aotea Square, watched by many Aucklanders.
Brown says he didn't see them as he concentrated on the tasks at hand, which included building a catamaran and chainsawing a Sky Tower replica.
But he was aware of support from Young Farmer clubs for the contestants.
Brown says the following day was the practical contest at the Kumeu Showgrounds, when each of the seven contestants had a farmlet that they had to develop.
It included fencing, getting water established for stock, planting trees, and there were modules on animal health (including shearing), machinery, engineering and cooking.
Brown says he knew he had to build a barbecue table first and had a sense this might be the place needed for the cooking module.
But his cooking didn't go well.
First was preparing an entree of steamed mussels then venison patties.
Brown says he was the first contestant, so he had to open all the packets and lost time. Then it got windy and the barbecue wouldn't light. So it went a bit pear-shaped.
"Mentally, it is really hard to put mistakes behind you. You can't stew if something isn't finished. You have to move on."
Six hundred school students came to the Kumeu grounds to see the practical contest. Anna Brown says they were from the city so they got a feeling for rural life.
Many city people are amazed that Young Farmer contestants can put up a fence, build yards, give a marketing perspective and answer quiz questions too.
"What we've seen is population growth and farm-size increase, so we have people who don't have an immediate relative farming," Cam Brown says.
Then, at the end of the practical day, when he was almost out of energy he got his speech topic: "If I were prime minister, what changes would aid the development in New Zealand of agriculture." It was one of the worst speech subjects Brown says he could have struck.
"It was 3.30 when I got the speech topic, I was stuck in traffic until 4.30, then I had an hour to write it."
Brown says in the speech he talked about the importance of research and development and getting that information out and used by farmers. He also spoke about attracting and retaining the right young people in agriculture.
Brown came runner-up in the final to Waikato-Bay of Plenty's Tim van de Molen.
Brown won a $15,000 Ag-Mardt Agri-Business scholarship for his talk about bovine placenta.
When cows calve, they drop their placenta and it's worth money.
Brown says a company in Hawke's Bay buys them and turns them into powder, which is sold as a dietary supplement in Indonesia.
"It is a viable industry. No capital expenditure is needed, pastures are cleaner and it is money for something left in the paddock."
But Brown says it doesn't make business sense for the farm they are on, but for farms with more than 1000 cows it could be a goer.
The $15,000 is for leadership development.
And it may be that a Kellog's Rural Leadership course is right for him, or a Nuffield Scholarship. Both are for a year and will take some planning and will be a big decision.
In the national contest, those who were second to seventh got $6000 in prizes. And they won substantial prizes when they were first in their regional competitions.
Brown said it was more difficult with Charlie as a baby in 2011 (he was premature) than coping with two young children in 2013.
"We have had the support of family and friends. And we did a lot of study at night when the children were in bed."
He and wife Anna are lower-order dairy farm sharemilkers at Hukunui, halfway between Pahiatua and Eketahuna.
Their two children are Charlie, 2, and Oliver, 5 months.
The farm was set up and is managed by AgInvestments.
Brown says it means monthly reporting to 30 shareholders, most are urban, a few rural and some are overseas.
"The challenge with urban shareholders is to put context around what we're doing and why."
It is the Browns' third season on the farm and the relationship is easier as a result. There is trust between the sharemilkers and the investors, he says.
There are two staff as well as Brown: the herd manager, Jarrah McCaffrey, and farm assistant Phillip Brown.
Cam Brown says they are aiming for financial freedom. "That's our long-term goal. It might be farm ownership. But the idea is we work hard now and have a freedom of choice later."
CAM'S CURRICULUM VITAE
Family: wife Anna, children Charlie, 2, Oliver, 5 months
Occupation: dairy farmer
Education: Massey University, Bachelor of Applied Science, Agribusiness
New Zealand Young Farmer history: Fitzherbert member since 2004, regional chairman of Taranaki and Manawatu.
Goals: 50:50 sharemilking, be debt free
Hobbies and interests: Squash (started off for fun - now can't help himself as he is competitive, Anna says.)