New book on 50 years of Young Farmer of the Year

By: Brad Markham


Young Farmer of the Year Daniel Bradbury represented the Northern region in the 2018 grand final Young Farmer of the Year
Young Farmer of the Year Josh Cozens competes in the agri-sports head-to-head challenge Young Farmer of the Year
Young Farmer of the Year All of the former grand final winners who were at the 50th anniversary dinner in 2018 Young Farmer of the Year
The first Young Farmer of the Year in 1969 The first Young Farmer of the Year in 1969 The first Young Farmer of the Year in 1969
The first Young Farmer of the Year in 1969 The iconic contest started life as a radio quiz. It was first televised in 1981. The first Young Farmer of the Year in 1969

A former contestant from Young Farmer of the Year has gathered a collection of experiences to create a book commemorating 50 years of the iconic competition

Kate Taylor still vividly remembers the agony of crossing the line at the end of the gruelling agri-sports challenge in her only Young Farmer of the Year regional final.

"I was absolutely shattered. I totally get the mental and physical boundaries competitors push themselves to," she says.

Using chainsaws, fencing, swinging a gate, scanning ewes, driving farm bikes, and tractors –  these were just some of the modules in the East Coast regional final at Dannevirke in 2001 she was involved in.

"I remember fighting with the fence. It was supposed to be five wires, but I only got two up," says Kate, who was still breastfeeding her daughter at the time.

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Logan Wallace won the 50th FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Invercargill

Almost 20 years on, the Hawke’s Bay freelance journalist has written a book on the colourful history of the prestigious agricultural contest.

In 50 Years Young: A History of the Young Farmer of the Year, Kate meets winners, finalists, and organisers and shares their stories of passion and commitment.

"The book is full of personal stories about the dedicated people who’ve been involved with contest since it began in 1969," she says. "Their passion for the contest and for the contest family has blown me away."

Kate spent last year travelling the country conducting interviews, taking photos, and collecting information for the 288-page book.

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Gary Frazer in 1969

"One of the highlights was catching up with old friends from NZ Young Farmers and telling so many stories that could never make the book," she says, laughing. "I also loved meeting some of the people who have always simply been names on the back of the grand final programmes.

"One such moment was meeting up with 1992 winner Grant Catto. I have known his identical twin brother Warwick, who won in 1995, for 25 years, but I’m not sure I’d ever properly met Grant."

The Young Farmer of the Year has been testing the knowledge, skills, and stamina of the country’s food producers for five decades.

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All of the former grand final winners who were at the 50th anniversary dinner in 2018

"Like many New Zealanders, I grew up watching the contest on television. The book has the same broad appeal to both rural and urban people," she says. "It’s not a farming book. It’s a snapshot of how the contest impacted on people’s lives while at the same time. It reflects changes in farming in those 50 years, too."

NZ Young Farmers, which runs the FMG Young Farmer of the Year, has been a major part of Kate’s life.

"Every time I moved when I was younger, I joined a new club. It was a great way to meet people and make friends. I met my husband Thomas when I joined Eskview Young Farmers," she says.

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Kate Taylor

"When I was approached to write the book, I didn’t need any convincing to say yes."

The big question is what does it take to win the FMG Young Farmer of the Year? Kate puts it down to stamina, time management, building support networks, a wide general knowledge, the ability to think outside the square, technique, and being prepared.

50 Years Young is published by Massey University Press and can be bought from book stores and online.

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