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Wired . . . Alan Harvey concentrates on one of the practical components of the Young Farmer of the Year grand final. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Alan Harvey’s trip to Hawke’s Bay for the Young Farmer of the Year final is a happy memory as he knuckles down again on the farm.

Mr Harvey, the operations manager for North Otago dairy farming company Borst Holdings Ltd, was the Aorangi region representative in the prestigious national contest. He competed against six other regional finalists in a variety of challenges last weekend.

They had to drive a large grape harvester, make sausages, assess health and safety risks using a virtual reality simulator, install an irrigation system for fruit trees, market a line of sheep, and sit an agri-business exam.

The title went to Auckland-based business graduate James Robertson who, at 22, was the youngest winner in the event’s 51-year history. He grew up on a 200-cow Waikato dairy farm and works in Fonterra’s trade strategy team.

“The opportunities in the agri-food sector are endless, even if you live in the city,” Mr Robertson said. “You just have to be passionate.”

He also won the FMG People’s Choice Award, collecting $1000 for his Auckland Young Farmers club.

Central Hawke’s Bay technical field representative Joseph Watts (28) was second overall and earned the innovation prize, the award for showcasing food production, and was named the most tech-savvy contestant.

Waikato vet Emma Dangen (24) was third overall and won the award for championing environmental best practice.

Whanganui stock manager Alex Field (25) won the outstanding leadership skills award.

Mr Harvey, a member of the Five Forks Young Farmers Club, was already back on the farm when the Oamaru Mail caught up with him on Tuesday.

He said the grand final was “an awesome experience”.

“It was pretty cool meeting the other contestants. We all got on.

“It was bloody good to go out there and do it.”

A change in the competition format to place more emphasis on marketing “threw me a bit”, he admitted.

“It was to be expected, but I didn’t know how much.”

Mr Harvey loved the practical challenges.

“I gave it my best shot. I couldn’t have done better.”

He has not yet decided whether to try again next year.

North Otago’s other representatives in Hawke’s Bay, the Waitaki Valley School AgriKids team called the Redbandz – Itaia Chapman, Tamati Dennison and Maddison Phillips – missed out on a podium finish. Their contest was won by a team from Tapanui’s Blue Mountain College. Northland’s Kamo Intermediate was second and Mt Somers Springburn School third