Emma Poole crowned 2023 FMG Young Farmer of the Year
Written by NZ Young Farmers
The Waikato Bay of Plenty representative will bring the trophy home to her region after being announced the winner of the annual FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final event at an awards ceremony in Timaru on Saturday night.
Emma secured the win following three days of gruelling challenges against six other Grand Finalists. Contestants’ farming skills and general knowledge were put to the test with tasks that included repairing farm machinery, creating a hydroponic system and an intense race-style challenge with multiple tasks that saw points awarded for both skill and speed.
“I'm totally overwhelmed, I really wasn't sure where I was going to sit. All the finalists have been so great throughout the competition and these last three days have been really tough so I wouldn't say I was feeling confident, but I knew I'd put in my best effort and that's all you can hope for at the end of the day.”
As Emma accepted the award, Tim Dangen, her brother, mentor and last season’s FMG Young Farmer of the Year was there to congratulate her as she expressed "we've finally knocked the grass ceiling off the roof”.
“There's a long chain of women that have worked really hard to display the important role we play in agriculture. All those women have given me the confidence to stand up and give it a go. I'm just a product of what they've all achieved.”
More than 600 spectators poured into Winchester Showgrounds to watch the action unfold during Friday’s practical day. Many were visibly on edge as contestants worked with quad bikes, power tools and tractors to show off their practical skills. Points added up with every challenge, though the race continued to play out neck and neck right up until the final buzzer quiz on Saturday evening.
In the end, Aorangi representative Peter O’Connor missed out on the title by a small margin, and Otago Southland Young Farmer Hugh Jackson finished up in third place.
Emma is no stranger to the contest. Having qualified for the Grand Final previously in 2019 she was more determined than ever to take out the win this time around.
“The most challenging was definitely the Agri-Sports, I had a pretty frustrating start with the baler and the tractor and that comes down to stress, but it's no different to what we're doing every day. Farming is tough when stress comes on and you've got to find a way to adapt and carry on.”
Alongside the coveted title, iconic trophy and famous Cloak of Knowledge, Emma also claimed $90,000 in prizes thanks to the Contest’s sponsor family.
Runner-up, Peter, also took home the Agri-Skills and Agri-Knowledge challenges and said his favourite part of the contest was racing the tractor down the home straight of the Agri-Sports, a skill that is second nature to him.
“It's a great feeling to be awarded second place. The competition was really challenging, it put us through our paces, with lots of unknowns and things I hadn't done before. I’m a competitive person and I like to get out there and challenge myself, so I'll definitely be back at some stage,” says Peter.
New Zealand Young Farmers Chief Executive Lynda Coppersmith said Emma impressed judges with her resilience, broad stroke of skills and knowledge and sheer determination.
“I’m thrilled for Emma – it’s the most prestigious farming award in the country and it’s incredible to see it go to someone who will be such a strong ambassador for not only the contest but for the entire food and fibre sector as a whole.”
Coppersmith said the talent demonstrated by contestants across the three-day final is proof that the future of the sector is in safe hands.
She also paid special tribute to the hundreds of volunteers who ensured that everything went according to plan.
“There are so many people who have worked tirelessly for months in the lead-up to the Grand Final – donating their time to ensure the event was a resounding success. It is a testament to their dedication that farming continues to thrive in Aotearoa and will for many years to come.”
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest Series would not be possible without the support of its sponsor family: FMG, Ravensdown, EPA, MPI, Worksafe, Milwaukee, Honda, Lincoln University, Massey University, New Holland, PTS Logistics and Bushbuck.