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Source: Environmental Protection Authority

The Whangārei Grand Final was the culmination of competitions run throughout the country since October last year. Each of the seven Young Farmer regions selected three AgriKids teams, two Junior teams, and one Young Farmer finalist to represent them at the Grand Final held in Whangārei between 7 and 9 July.

Auckland farmer Tim Dangen took out the 54th FMG Young Farmer of the Year award, Christchurch Girls High team Erin Humm and Amelia Ridgen the Junior Young Farmer team, and Waikato trio Liam Hodgson, Archie Keelty and Leighton Barnett the AgriKids team.

As a contest sponsor, the EPA contributed questions and testing modules for the theoretical and practical tests that Young Farmer finalists completed in Whangārei. These tested contestants’ knowledge and understanding of environmentally sustainable farming practices.

This year’s contest focused on the use of chemicals and the protection and improvement of waterways.

EPA General Manager Engagement, Paula Knaap, says the EPA’s involvement with the competition and the Young Farmers organisation enables greater discussion of environmental challenges.

“Agriculture is a major part of our economy and a major source of environmental impact. Connecting with a new generation of farmers focused on the future of the sector and their role in protecting the environment is a tremendous opportunity.”

Young Farmer contestants had to plan protection and improvement of the wetland, ponds and stream at Whangārei’s Barge Showgrounds. Juniors had to demonstrate their knowledge of riparian planting, and the AgriKids team had to make choices about sustainable domestic and farming activities. Amid the rain and mud, the kids had to provide the power for a cycle-driven smoothie machine.

We helped New Zealand Young Farmer and Northland Regional Council run a volunteer riparian planting at Barge Showgrounds. Farmers and their whānau planted 200 native trees beside the established wetlands to help protect Te Hihi Stream, which flows through Whangārei.

Winner Tim Dangen, a calf rearer and beef farmer in Muriwai, says farmers are facing a variety of environmental challenges. “If we keep a positive mind frame and keep taking positive actions towards solving the problems that we have on hand, we’ll all get there together,” he says.

New Zealand Young Farmers Chief Executive Lynda Coppersmith says: “It’s wonderful to have the EPA involved with FMG Young Farmer of the Year, making sure that everyone understands the importance of the environment and sustainability in farming.”

Paula Knaap says the EPA’s relationship with NZ Young Farmers, which is committed to connecting with communities and growing future farming leaders, is giving the environment a voice.

“We can get around the table with these emerging leaders to discuss opportunities for reducing environmental harm.”