The New Zealand Bachelor series may have given us some colourful characters - from Naz to Poppy to Crystal - but they've got nothing on the men and women taking part in this year's "Rural Catch".

NZ Herald Focus caught up with the eight finalists - four men and four women - who will battle it out at this year's Fieldays to take home the Golden Gumboot - and perhaps a new farming mate.

Asked what they're looking for in an ideal partner, finalist Lily Newton, a trainee helicopter pilot and drystock farmer, says she's taking dating advice from her father: "My dad always tells me I've got to look at a man like my perfect breeding bull for my heifers."

She says she's also after someone who's not going to wander into the neighbour's paddock: "My last bull jumped the fence. I wanted to turn him into sausages."


Meanwhile, Mairi Whittle tells Focus she's here because her friends gave her an ultimatum: Enter Rural Catch or sign up for Married At First Sight.

Whittle's ideal partner is someone who is, firstly, "willing to move to Taihape" where Whittle works as a shepherd on a sheep and beef farm.

"[Taihape] is a great place. There's a few jobs around the house I need taking care of. He's got to be able to hunt and fish as well."

Former "gumboot girl", Eira Lloyd-Forrest, was encouraged by her fellow gumboot girls to apply when it was announced the competition would be open to women this year too.

She reckons the perfect date would have to involve "either horse riding or hunting followed by a good feed and a few Speights".

Speaking to the men who made the final four this year, it sounds like there could be some good matches - for a first date at least.

Berny Hall says he's not after anything "too fancy": "I'm not going to go to a five star restaurant or anything like that." His Rural Catch bio notes he'd like to explore a new place, "preferably on the coast with dinner to match".

And Sam Hughson from Hāwera in Taranaki likes the sound of something "simple" and "cheap" suggesting "fish and chips on the beach".


The eight contestants, hailing from around rural New Zealand and Australia, will test their skills on and off the farm to find out who is the ultimate farming champion.

The all-expenses paid competition kicked off yesterday with the Farmlands roadtrip, which gives contestants the chance to get to know each other and try their hand at various challenges before the serious stuff begins at Fieldays on June 13.

This year the competition will feature traditional challenges such as fencing, quad-bike skills and dog handling as well as rounds involving tractors and cooking – with a twist.

Meet the finalists

Contestant #1

is Ben Fisher, a DairyNZ farm manager based in Ōhaupō who is passionate about the rural sector and animal welfare and whose ideal date involves a nice dinner with good chat then home to watch a movie and relax.

Contestant #2

is fiery redhead and former Gumboot Girl, Eira Lloyd-Forrest of Geraldine, who is passionate about animal health and supporting the agricultural industry and is looking for an honest, caring and hard-working farming guy who can make her laugh.

Contestant #3

is Berny Hall, a dairy farmer from New Plymouth, who isn't afraid to put himself out there and have a bit of fun and is looking for someone loyal, passionate, supportive and encouraging.

Contestant #4

is trainee helicopter pilot and drystock farmer Lilly Newton, based in Urenui. Lilly is outgoing, loves a good yarn, is caring and thoughtful toward animals and passionate about women in male-dominated careers.

Contestant #5

is Mairi Whittle, a former rural bank manager now working as a shepherd on a sheep and beef farm east of Taihape. She would love to find someone funny, sporty, who gets along with her friends and is loyal and respectful to share her amazing lifestyle with.

Contestant #6

is agricultural machine operator Mat Hilhorst of Atiamuri near Taupō. Mat loves a good laugh, enjoys being outdoors and his ideal date would involve doing something adventurous, having dinner and drinks then cutting some shapes on the dance floor.

Contestant #7

is Renae Flett of Palmerston North. She's a sole contract milker passionate about animal health and pasture management whose ideal date would be something simple like a picnic overlooking a nice farm view.

Contestant #8

is dairy farm manager Sam Hughson, based out of Hāwera. Sam enjoys working with cows and machinery and seeing the land develop and is looking for someone with a good sense of humour and willing to try new experiences, who has a positive mindset and appreciates the rural lifestyle.

Find out more about Fieldays here.