A Turakina sheep and beef farmer has been named the Taranaki/Manawatū FMG Young Farmer of the Year.
Competition in the 47th ANZ Young Farmer Contest was fierce, with the Evening Show rounds resulting in a tie between East Coast's Sully Alsop and Aorangi's Matt Bell, before Bell won on a count-back of practical day scores.
Bell is in his first season of an equity manager's role alongside his fiancé Samantha. This was his second Grand Final, having placed 3rd in the 2013 competition held in Auckland. As competitors are only able to compete at Grand Final level twice, this was Bell's last shot at the title.
"This is the most surreal feeling, all the hard work has paid off. The blood, sweat and tears – it was all worth it!" he says.
Second place went to Sully Alsop who won the AGMARDT Agri-Business Challenge and the Lincoln University Agri-Growth Challenge. Third place went to Waikato/Bay of Plenty's Dwayne Cowin who also won the Ravensdown Agri-Skills Challenge and the Silver Fern Farms Agri-Sports Challenge.
Bell took home the Meridian Agri-Knowledge Challenge.
The contest aims to stretches competitor's mental dexterity, physical stamina and showcase the complexity of modern farming.
The seven Grand Finalists were put through their paces over three days of competition in Taupo 2-4 July.
The events opened on Thursday with a shearing head-to-head challenge where competitors were to shear two sheep in front of the crowd.
Friday was the practical day events day and saw contestants demonstrating skills such as tree felling, engineering, assembling irrigation systems and maintaining a miniature farm.
In the technical elements of the competition contestants had to present a business plan, go through a panel interview and work out an HR scenario.
After the practical events, contestants were given several hours to prepare a three-minute speech and deliver it at the grand final dinner held at the Great Lake Centre, Taupo.
It was neck and neck for as contestants battled through the final hurdle of quick-fire question rounds. It was an extremely close quiz show with Sully Alsop and Matt Bell tied for first place. Upon count-back Matt was announced the 2015 ANZ Young Farmer Contest.
Bell says he looks forward to the opportunities winning the contest will now offer. "One of the things I am looking forward to is being able to go into schools and communities and have the profile as well as the influence to help change the perception of agriculture. Our industry is the backbone of New Zealand, it's time that was realised."
He also thanked the contest's family of 10 sponsors as well as his supporters who travelled from mid-Canterbury to watch him compete.
Bell went home with nearly $75,000 in prizes including $10,000 cash from ANZ and entrance to Kellogg's Rural Leadership Programme from Lincoln University valued at $6,000.
1. Matt Bell, Aorangi
2. Sully Alsop, East Coast
3. Dwayne Cowin, Waikato/Bay of Plenty
4. James Hoban, Tasman
5. Pete Fitz-Herbert, Taranaki/Manawatu
6. Steve Henderson, Otago/Southland
7. Douglas McGregor, Northern