By DAVID HILL
The 2020 FMG Young Farmer of the Year contest has become a casualty of the global coronavirus pandemic.
New Zealand Young Farmers (NZYF) has made the difficult decision to cancel the prestigious event for the first time in the competition’s 52-year history, chief executive Lynda Coppersmith says.
The decision means the three South Island regional finals Otago/Southland held.
The four North Island regional finals were held prior to large gatherings being cancelled.
The grand final was due to be held in Christchurch in July, with the city now announced as the host for the 2021 contest.
“I appreciate this decision will be disappointing for everyone involved with the contest, but for the safety of competitors, volunteers, spectators and sponsors it’s the right thing to do,” Lynda says.
“I’d like to acknowledge all of our competitors this year and in particular highlight the efforts of our four grand finalists for 2020, who support the decision and appreciate the unique situation we’re all in.
“We also want to thank our South Island regional finalists for their patience as we worked through the postponement of their regional finals.”
The cancellation means the contest will start again, leading up to the 2021 grand final, with those who qualified from regional finals and the grand final needing to re-qualify.
But the NZYF board has agreed to some flexibility around age and qualification restrictions for next year’s contest, Lynda says.
“Given this is an unprecedented situation, the board has agreed to show flexibility with a one-year age extension and also to revoke the number of grand final and regional final qualifications for the 28 competitors affected.
“This flexibility will apply to 2020 grand finalists and those who have qualified for the cancelled regional finals.
“These are trying times for so many of us right now, and we could not run the contest, nor begin planning to rearrange it, without the support of our sponsors and I’d like to thank them for that support.”
The agrikids and junior young farmer of the year contests will continue as online competitions.
Following the cancellation of large gatherings, the Tasman, Aorangi and Otago/Southland contests were moved online, with school teams still able to compete and winners for each region selected.
Lynda says the competitions in this format have been successful and she thanked the teachers, supervisors and pupils involved for taking part.
This has set a pathway to allow the grand finals to be hosted online, which NZYF and the sponsors are working together to organise.