Will Taylor reckons he's mastered practical farming skills but has spent the last while immersed in books to upgrade his theoretical knowledge.
The top Taranaki/Manawatu Young Farmer arrives in Invercargill today for the national final of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year 2018 Contest. With him will be about 40 supporters from the region.
It's the competition's 50th year, which Taylor said made it a big deal.
Tomorrow the contestants have a bus trip and celebration dinner. On Friday their practical skills are tested. The quiz and awards ceremony are on Saturday night.
Taylor will be one of the few among the seven finalists with no university background. Instead he has worked on farms all his life, starting at his parents' property at Cheltenham.
These days he lives in Feilding and is a technical field representative for PGG Wrightson. He has his own 20ha farm on the edge of town, where he breeds and trades lambs and is building a house. He could use the tractor that's part of the contest's $155,000 prize package.
The 26-year-old has always wanted to get into the final of the competition, and was "a bit shocked" to win the region final in February.
As part of the contest he's already written a 5000-word piece on a farming business innovation - in his case variable application. He's been reading up about farm management, finance, animal husbandry and other theoretical aspects.
In the contest theory counts for 56 per cent, with practical skills 44 per cent.
"You really need to excel all round," he said.
As well as working on farms Taylor had a night job as cocktail bartender in Palmerston North for six months in 2012. It was an odd combination with farming but he enjoyed it.
"You meet plenty of different people."
He was the deputy chair of the Marton Young Farmers' Club, and has now joined the club in Wellington, where his girlfriend lives.
"I like their perspective on things. They've got a lot of industry professionals in their club."
He wants to win the contest because it will give him a lot of exposure and further his career.