Woman leans against a fence inside a barn.
I think if you step away from the contest and look at it in a wider context, you know that the same community will be there for you through thick and thin.

I come from a chaotic family, growing up as the middle child of five on a family calf-rearing farm in Muriwai on the west coast of Auckland. I have so many great childhood memories, and because we always had loads of animals – many with big personalities – we were never lacking for excitement. I lived in the same childhood home right up until I moved to Palmerston North in 2013 to study veterinary science, which is where I met my now-husband, Chris, and first got involved in the Young Farmers community. After we both graduated, we moved straight to the farm we are on now, just outside of Hamilton in a small town called Pirongia. We milk 1,100 cows across two different farms and run a calf rearing operation alongside the dairy farm, rearing an extra 1,000 calves each year across autumn and spring.

The farming landscape has definitely changed over the years. Farming has always been at the core of New Zealand’s economy and is primarily based on food production, but now that there are so many other avenues of life, farming is not necessarily the main thing people think of as being at the heart of New Zealand. Things like the Junior and Young Farmers competitions are so important for keeping that cultural spark alive.

I first competed in the FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition back in 2017 when my local district didn’t have enough competitors. I had no idea what I was in for, but I somehow ended up making it into the finals, so I entered again in 2019 and came third. I just fell in love with the competition and knew it was something I wanted to keep doing – especially after seeing Chris and my brother, Tim, take out second and first place last year. Winning the competition this year was such a big moment for me, especially being the first woman in history to do so, and it’s been so nice being a part of such a positive rural story.

It’s also been awesome to see how the competition has evolved. It’s gathered so much momentum and steam, and the prizes and sponsors have only gotten bigger and better. One new aspect of the competition I thought was really awesome was the new FMG Region-off component, which replaced People’s Choice from the previous years, where the public got to vote on who they wanted to win. The FMG Region-off lets young children from AgrikidsNZ team up with the Junior Farmers and Young Farmers and earn points for their regions by completing different challenges, which contributes to our overall competition score. The region with the most points also wins money for a chosen charity.

The challenges included helping out people in the community, fixing fences, chopping firewood, cleaning up local spots and volunteering at retirement homes, and the kids could go through the list and tick things off as they went. Although it was the first year, I think this new component is a really cool way to get young people and aspiring farmers involved and giving back to their community, and to connect them to senior farmers.

It used to be that every family had an uncle, brother, dad or grandad who owned a farm, but it's changed so much over the years. As a rural sector, we have to be mindful that not everyone is connected to a farm anymore, which is what makes the FMG Region-off so great because it allows those kids to get a foot in the door. My region – the Waikato, Bay of Plenty – ended up getting 844 points, which was just out of the running for the top prize but still a really great accomplishment.

Another part I really enjoyed was the Grand Final in Timaru, where AgrikidsNZ, Junior Farmers and Young Farmers got together for a big parade down the main street. It was a really nice feeling rallying together and proves how tight-knit rural communities can be, and that we really do care about one another.

So, although winning FMG Young Farmer of the Year is a really positive thing for both myself and my community, and it has been amazing celebrating it all together, it has been equally as amazing to witness how we all pull together – knowing the community will be there for you when you need them outside of the competition.

FMG is proud to support Emma and other hardworking, passionate farmers across Aotearoa with developing crucial on-farm skills and forging lasting connections in their communities. Registrations for season fifty-six of FMG Young Farmer of the Year are open now. Head to fmg.co.nz/youngfarmer to learn more.

A more in-depth story on Emma’s journey to winning FMG Young Farmer of the Year and how she juggles life as a farmer, veterinarian and mum is coming soon in our Raumati Summer 2023/24 Edition, out 30 November!

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