First Young Farmer of the Year chosen

22 August 1969

Gary Frazer
Gary Frazer (Farmers Weekly)

Held at the South Pacific Hotel in Auckland, the competition was open to all members of the Young Farmers’ Club. The inaugural winner was Gary Frazer from Swannanoa, near Christchurch. The contest has become an established part of the farming calendar.

The Young Farmer of the Year competition now attracts up to 300 entrants each year. They compete at district and then regional level for the right to represent one of seven regions in the grand final. The 2016 finalists competed for more than $300,000 worth of prizes. The winner, Athol New from Aorangi, Mid Canterbury, scooped a prize package worth $80,000.

By 2020, when the competition was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only six women had made it to the grand final: Denise Brown in 1981, Louise Collingwood in 2003 and 2004, Katherine Tucker in 2012, Lisa Kendall in 2017, and Georgie Lindsay and Emma Dangen in 2019.

In 2023, Pirongia dairy farmer Emma Poole became the first woman to break through the ‘grass ceiling’. She acknowledged the ‘long chain of women’ who had given her the ‘confidence to give it a go’.

The grand final involves three days of physical and intellectual challenges designed to test practical, business-management, problem-solving and social skills. Highlights of the final have been televised since 1981.