Top young farmers to be tested

Last updated 11:05 11/02/2014

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The first of seven ANZ Young Farmer Contest grand finalists will be determined on Saturday as Tasman kicks off the 2014 regional finals in Murchison.

Eight contestants are vying for a place at the grand final in Christchurch in July and their share of an impressive prize package worth more than $14,000 in products, services and scholarships.

The Tasman regional final will involve a day of practical, physical and theoretical challenges at the Murchison Sport, Recreation and Cultural Centre, followed by an evening quiz show at the Murchison Theatre.

Marcel van Reenen, 28, of the Tapawera club is a rural banker in Upper Moutere. He participated in the 2012 Tasman regional final and has a Bachelor of Commerce in agriculture, rural valuation. He is a beekeeping enthusiast and is keen on multisport.

It will be the third regional final for Andrew Stewart, 30, from the Grey Valley club. He is no stranger to the contest, having competed at the district level six times. Mr Stewart is a fifth-generation farmer in the Taramakau settlement, where he is a 50-50 sharemilker with 250 cows.

Taking part in his seventh round of regional finals is Reuben Carter from the Christchurch City club.

The 30-year-old agronomist is active in stock judging and was the winner of the 2012 NZ and Australasian Junior Meat and Wool Breeds Sheep Judging Competition.

Mr Carter, who admits to having a competitive streak, was the Tasman representative at last year's grand final in Auckland.

One of the few women competing at this level is Sarah O'Connell of the Dunsandel club. The 29-year-old works as an extension officer with Beef + Lamb New Zealand in the central South Island, and has competed in three previous regional finals.

Saturday's regional final will be the first for Hurunui club member James Hoban. Mr Hoban, 28, divides his time between his family, work as a land management adviser and freelance writing for Country-Wide magazine.

Another Hurunui club member is 30-year-old Charles Douglas-Clifford, who is back after participating in the 2006 and 2007 Tasman regional finals. Mr Douglas-Clifford holds a Bachelor of Commerce in agriculture from Lincoln University and works on his family farm near Cheviot.

Andrew Wiffen, 26, of the Renwick club is optimistic that the competition experience he has gained over the years will help him secure a place in this year's grand final.

Mr Wiffen made it through to the 2012 Aorangi regional final, and placed third in last year's Tasman regional final. He works on his family's sheep and beef property at Ward and holds a Bachelor of Commerce in agriculture, farm management and rural valuation.

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The youngest competitor is Caleb Strowger, 22, from the Lincoln club. What he lacks in age he makes up for in experience, already having two regional finals under his belt.

Mr Strowger studied towards a Bachelor of Agriculture Sciences and is a trainee consulting officer with DairyNZ.

"This contest season is shaping up to be very impressive. Every year the calibre of contestants continues to impress," said ANZ Young Farmer Contest chairman Kyle Goodwyn.

Also in the midst of the action will be the Young Farmer entrants of the future. AgriKidsNZ and TeenAg competitions will be running alongside the ANZ Young Farmer Contest.

Tickets for the evening show are available from the Murchison Vet Clinic, 80 Waller St.

Fruit growers, too Meanwhile, top young fruit growers from throughout the Nelson region will also be competing this week, at the annual Nelson Young Fruit Grower competition.

Six competitors will go head to head in an intense one-day event on Friday at Hoddy's Orchard, Richmond, putting all their skills to the test.

The winner will go on to compete against three other contestants for the prestigious Young Grower of the Year title at the national competition in Christchurch in August.

"This competition is a highlight of the year for us," said co-ordinator Andrew Kininmonth. "As an industry, we're able to support and showcase the outstanding talent of young growers with opportunities like this, and see first-hand how important they are to the future of NZ's horticultural industry.

"We see the standard of competitors increase each year, and it's a treat to see the young fruit growers in their element with such a fun and challenging event."

Essential skills needed to run a fruit-growing business will be tested, ranging from irrigation and chainsaw safety to fruit quality assessment and a human resource exercise.

The six competitors from around the Nelson region are:

Riwaka: Steve Thomas, 25, kiwifruit new variety manager/coolstore manager at Thomas Bros; Aaron Finlay, 22, Block 2IC at Enzafruit NZ International's Riwaka Orchard; Mark Thomas, 27, pipfruit manager at Thomas Bros.

Waimea Plains: Jonathan Sutton, 21, Nelson Young Fruit Grower 2013, works at Daelyn Partnership; Canaan Balck, 23, works at Hoddy's Orchard.

Motueka: Joseph Hart, 28, works at Cedarman Bros.

Sutton is returning for the 2014 competition, and says those competing will be able to apply their skills in a new environment and develop as individual fruit growers, regardless of how far they progress in the competition.

"When you're outside of your normal work environment, you have to think on the spot a lot, particularly when you want to outperform the next person, and that allows you to really stretch yourself more than you would day to day," he said. "Anyone looking to step up their growing career should be involved in the Nelson Young Fruit Grower competition. I'm looking forward to pushing myself for a third time, and wish everyone the best of luck."

The winners will be announced at an awards dinner that evening at Seifried Estate.

- Nelson

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