Monday, 04 March 2024 15:55

Dairy farmer takes out Tasman FMG Young Farmer of the Year

Written by  Staff Reporters
George Dodson finishing his letterbox in one of the head-to-head challenges. George Dodson finishing his letterbox in one of the head-to-head challenges.

A Darfield Young Farmer is one step closer to winning one of New Zealand’s most prestigious farming awards after being crowned the Season 56 Tasman FMG Young Farmer of the Year.

George Dodson, 22, was announced as the Tasman FMG Young Farmer of the Year on Saturday evening, following two days of fierce competition in Christchurch.

Now, he gears up to take on six other regional finalists in the ultimate showdown at the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final, being held in Hamilton in July.

The weekend’s event was one of seven Regional Finals happening across Aotearoa between February and April. Details of what challenges would be thrown at them at the Tasman event were kept under wraps from the 22 determined contestants. 

The win comes as a shock to Dodson, who was humbled by the achievement.

“To be honest it hasn’t sunk in yet, it was such a shock, I can’t really believe it to be honest!” he says.

Originally from Southland, Dodson is second in charge on a 430-cow dairy farm between Darfield and Dunsandel. This is his third time competing in the prestigious contest, and the first time he’s earned a place at the Grand Final.

“The weekend was intense, there was definitely some stuff in there that was beneficial to me, and it was great that Saturday was practical based,” explains Dodson.

“The head-to-heads were a great challenge, I didn’t expect to be loading AI straws so it was cool to be doing something different.”

Seeing his name at the top of the leaderboard going into Saturday night’s buzzer quiz, Dodson says the pressure was on.

“When I saw that I was leading before the quiz, my family said I went pale white!” he says.

“The pressure was on, but luckily I smashed the quick-fire round so could settle into it a bit more after that.”

George Letham, 26, a member of the Waihora Banks Peninsula Young Farmers, made his debut in the competition and clinched second place. Meanwhile, Eddie Millichamp, 20, representing Lincoln Young Farmers, secured the last spot on the podium.

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition is dedicated to showcasing the very best talent in New Zealand’s food and fibre sector. Now in its 56th year, the title of “FMG Young Farmer of the Year” is held up as one of the most prestigious farming awards in the country.  

 Dodson is looking forward to competing at the Grand Final and is excited about testing himself against the best of the best.

“I found the exam and some of the technical aspects of the weekend a bit of a challenge, so that’ll definitely be a focus for me in the lead-up to July.”

Dodson has a busy month ahead, competing for the title of Canterbury/North Otago Dairy Manager of the Year this week which will help him kick off his preparation for the Grand Final in July.

The next generation was also out competing, with Mikayla Molloy and Tabitha White taking out the Tasman FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year title for 2024. Meanwhile, the Seddon School AgriKidsNZ team made up of Pippa Muir, Isabella Pitts and Emma March were the 2024 Tasman AgriKidsNZ Champions.

 Connor Carroll and Oliver Carter from St Bede's College placed second in the Tasman FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year Competition. 

Runner-up and third in the AgriKidsNZ contest were Liam Underwood, Manawa Doonan and Fred Maher, also from Seddon School, and Charlotte Craw, Jess Thompson and Hayley Shannon from Akaroa Area School.

They have also been invited to July’s FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final.  

 New Zealand Young Farmers Chief Executive Lynda Coppersmith says this year’s Grand Final is shaping up to be one of the best yet.  

 “Every year we continue to be blown away by the caliber of our FMG Young Farmer of the Year contestants, from our AgriKidsNZ participants through to those vying for the regional FMG Young Farmer of the Year title,” Coppersmith says.

“Their knowledge, skills and passion for the industry is impressive and certainly leaves us excited for the future of our industry.” 

Coppersmith says it’s the regional communities and volunteers who have made the FMG Young Farmer of the Year the prestigious event it is today. 

“We simply couldn’t do it without the tireless work of our local committees, communities and volunteers,” she says. “These are people who support us year in, year out, and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who has played a part.”  

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest is supported by FMG, Ravensdown, WorkSafe, Ministry for Primary Industries, Milwaukee, Woolworths, Honda, Lincoln University, Massey University, PTS Logistics, New Holland and Bushbuck.  

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