The first qualifying rounds for the next FMG Young Farmer of the Year begin this week.

Eighteen district contests will be held across the country before Christmas.

The events will help find 56 competitors who will clash in seven FMG Young Farmer of the Year regional finals early next year.

"I've entered to test my skills and knowledge and to meet other young farmers," says Lincoln Young Farmers member Tom Adkins.

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"This is my first time competing and I'd really like to make it through to the later stages of the contest in years to come."

The 20-year-old, who was raised on a sheep and beef farm near Whanganui, is studying a Diploma in Farm Management at Lincoln University.

He's landed a job working as a shepherd at Te Mania Angus in North Canterbury this summer.

"I got the job after going up there on a club field trip. I'm really passionate about beef and sheep breeding and genetics," he says.

Tom's signed up for the district contest at Springston, southwest of Christchurch, on October 19.

He'll face off against Wairarapa-born Sarah Whiteman, 23, who's an assistant cereal breeder at PGG Wrightson Seeds.

She helps develop new varieties of wheat and barley. It's her second time entering the contest.

"Last year I entered in the 'have a go' category, which enables people to complete the modules in pairs," says Sarah.

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"It was heaps of fun and a great confidence booster. I don't have a farming background and it helped me realise I actually know what I'm doing."

Sarah will compete in her own right next month, meaning she'll be eligible to qualify for a spot in the Tasman regional final in March.

"I've entered to challenge myself, learn new things and meet people from other NZ Young Farmers clubs," she says.

The first district contest begins in Palmerston North on October 5.

The events are designed to test the practical and theoretical skills of competitors.

"Everyone has their own reason for entering the district contests," says Danielle Holland from NZ Young Farmers.

"It's a chance for members to benchmark themselves, have fun, and importantly to qualify for the next stage of the contest."

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year began in 1969 and showcases the country's food and fibre sector.

The event is supported by FMG, Ravensdown, Honda, WorkSafe, STIHL, Lincoln University, Massey University, Southfuels/Northfuels, Betacraft and New Holland.

The dates of each district contest are listed below. More details are at www.fmgyoungfarmercontest.co.nz

Northern:
9 November – Kaikohe
30 November – Waimuaku

Waikato/Bay of Plenty:
16 November – Reporoa
23 November – Huntly
23 November – Morrinsville
30 November - Piopio

East Coast:
9 November – Pongoroa
30 November – Gisborne

Taranaki/Manawatu:
5 October – Palmerston North
9 November – Feilding
16 November – Eltham
30 November – Stratford

Aorangi:
12 October – Waipopo Farm
19 October – Mt Somers

Tasman:
19 October – Springston
26 October – Rangiora

Otago/Southland:
19 October – Middlemarch
16 November – Mossburn