Rural champs tipped to be fierce

DIANE BISHOP
Last updated 16:18 20/02/2014
Southland Times photo
DIANE BISHOP/Fairfax NZ
Simon Topham prunes a tree during the practical module of the Otago Southland regional final of the 2013 ANZ Young Farmer Contest.

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It could be anybody's game.

Fierce competition is expected at the Otago- Southland regional final of the 2014 ANZ Young Farmer Contest in Alexandra on Saturday.

It is the second regional final to be held throughout the country.

Otago-Southland regional final convenor Ben Gillespie said three of the eight contestants are seasoned competitors.

Both Hedgehope dairy farmer Simon Topham, 25, and DairyNZ extension officer James Lawn, 24, are going into their fourth regional final, while it will be the third one for Glenham sheep, beef and dairy farmer Dean Rabbidge, 28.

Rabbidge won last year's regional final in Gore.

Gillespie said he expected fierce competition from the experienced competitors at the regional final. "But you never know the underdogs could be the ones to watch," he said.

Nightcaps contract milker John White, 30, has competed once before at regional final level, while farm workers Hamish Robinson, 21, Hayden Gentle, 28 and sheep farmer Logan Wallace are new to the competition.

Lincoln student James Gardyne, 19, is the youngest competitor.

The practical day finals will be held at Pioneer Park in Alexandra starting at 7am with the eight contestants competing in the AgMardt Agribusiness challenge.

The eight half-hour practical modules, which start at 8am, will involve a range of farm-related tasks. Previous activities have involved pruning trees, baking muffins, calibrating a seed drill, sorting sheep, fencing and some welding.

However, Gillespie would not reveal what activities were on the agenda this year.

"We've tried to make them reasonably tough - all the things we expect contestants to have been doing on the farm."

The Silver Ferns Agri-sports challenge would be held in the afternoon followed by the evening session at the Alexandra Memorial Hall from 7pm.

Gillespie said in a change from previous years a charity auction would be held to raise money for suicide prevention.

Tickets to the evening show could be bought from ANZ in Alexandra.

The top-scoring competitor will go on to represent Otago-Southland at the Grand Final in Christchurch from July 3 to 5.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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