A duo from Rathkeale College, Masterton have taken out the title for the 2021 East Coast FMG Junior Young Farmer of the Year after competing for four years in a row.
The 30-year-old has become the second person to advance through to the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in July.
The competition on Saturday at Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds showcased the best Young Farmers from all parts of the agriculture sector in the East Coast region, chosen from two district contests.
With just fie points separating them, second place East Coast FMG Young Farmer of the Year was awarded to Ashley Greer, 30.
28-year-old sheep and beef farm manager Hugh Abbiss came in third place.
A technical field representative with PGG Wrightson Waipukurau, Watts hopes it would be a case of third time lucky competing at the 2021 Grand Final.
He came runner-up at the Grand Final in 2019 and had his eyes on the 2020 title after winning the regional final – before Covid-19 cancelled the remainder of the season.
“I certainly have a lot of determination behind what I’m doing, so I’ll be trying to bring my day job into my preparation a lot more and using what I do on a day-to-day basis to prepare,” he says.
Hailing from Palmerston North, Watts’s passion for agriculture was sparked in the shearing sheds around Raetihi after meeting his now wife, Lucy.
He holds a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science from Massey University, a Graduate Diploma in Rural Studies and a Certificate in Science and Technology.
Having the points live on screen changed the competition for this Regional Final, he says.
“It was quite exciting being able to watch the points unfold on the screen and you knew it was close and it was coming, but for it to come down to basically one hard question and it could have been a different story.”
Runner up Ashley Greer, a PGG Wrightson customer service representative in Masterton, says she is extremely proud of herself as a second-time competitor.
“I didn’t expect to place at all today so to come second and win two of the strainers, I’m feeling on top of the world at the moment,” she says.
“I actually went in with the attitude of just enjoying the day, so I was just going with the flow, enjoying the environment and the people and I really, really loved it.”
A Wairarapa Young Farmer, she has experience in the dairy industry, sheep and beef farming and block managing.
Now passed the age limit, Greer says it was the best way to end her competing days.
“My partner, in-laws and my dad were all here tonight and they were so proud. My mum was running a conference this weekend so she couldn’t make it so I think she’ll probably crack a bottle of wine and be crying at home.”
Third time competitor and Tikokino Young Farmer Hugh Abbiss says it was a fantastic day with really strong competition.
He says he found the pressures were the most challenging part of the contest.
“The amount of knowledge that we’re required to get down on paper in a very short space of time, takes a bit of thinking and I probably struggled with that a wee bit,” he says.
“A couple of the modules were a little bit hard to finish and again just trying to get the volumes of knowledge down in such a short space of time is particularly challenging.”
Passionate about creating top quality animal feeding systems and high performing finishing units, he spent the last six years on finishing operations alone.
He holds a Bachelor of Agri Commerce from Lincoln University.
The eight regional finalists competed in eight modules and battled it out head-to-head in two time and point races at Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds.
A written exam, as well as the FMG Young Farmer of the Year buzzer quiz, also tested the regional finalist’s knowledge.
The contest is based around four strainers – technology and innovation, environment, people and food.
Greer took out the top points for environment and people, while Watts won innovation and technology as well as the exam. Abbiss topped the food strainer.
Regional Final convenor, Hamish Duff, says he enjoyed being on the other side of the fence this year as an organiser instead of a competitor.
The Eskview Young Farmer, a stock manager on Otamauri Station, says it was a privilege to still be involved and watch the eight contestants showcase their skills.
“We wanted to really focus on the core practices of farming and put our contestants through a challenging contest of what it means to be one of Hawke’s Bay’s leading primary producers,” Duff says.
“I hope convening helps me learn to get the best out of people and succeed in getting the team working well to create a great Regional Final.”
New Zealand Young Farmers chief executive Lynda Coppersmith says the 2021 competition has so far been one of the fiercest seasons yet.
“We can’t thank all of our amazing contestants, conveners and volunteers enough for their resilience, hard work and dedication,” she says.
“The level of competition this year is absolutely outstanding. We have some seriously talented members in our ranks and it is a privilege to watch them all represent the food and fibre sector and grow as Young Farmers.”