Kieran McCahon has been crowned Waikato Bay of Plenty FMG Young Farmer of the Year.
He will now head to the Grand Final in Christchurch in July to battle it out for the FMG Young Farmer of the Year national title.
McCahon, 24, said he was feeling a bit shellshocked but excited about his regional win.
"It's pretty amazing, I think it will take a bit for it to sink in properly. It's been an incredible and challenging day. A lot of things didn't quite go my way, I didn't finish some things to the standard I normally would, but I pushed through. I'm really pleased with how it went."
The animal and feed developer with DairyNZ beat out second time regional finalist Chris Poole, 26, with only 9 points between them.
FMG Insurance mobile rural consultant Joshua Rainey, 25, was awarded third place.
The eight regional finalists competed in eight modules and battled it out head-to-head in two time and point races at Tauranga Racecourse on Saturday 27th February.
A written exam, as well as the famous FMG Young Farmer of the Year buzzer quiz also tested the regional finalist's knowledge.
Listen to Rowena Duncum interview Te Radar, the voice of the FMG Young Farmer of the Year, on the Waikato/ Bay of Plenty regional final on The Country below:
With the contest based around four strainers – technology and innovation, environment, people, food – finalists who earned the top points in each strainer also won awards.
McCahon has a Bachelor of Agri-Science from Massey University and a Masters of Agribusiness Management from the University of Waikato.
While his book smarts landed him top marks to take out the Exam Prize, he said the sausage making module almost got the better of him.
"I'll admit I was lost there for a bit during that module. My grandfather used to make sausages for the family and he was actually there supporting me so there was this added pressure to not stuff up!" he said.
McCahon's previous two regional finals taught him some valuable lessons about himself and he believed this had helped him prepare for this competition.
"I have a tendency to overthink things. Having the consequences of that in previous competitions, I've learnt now to take my time and be patient. Having that awareness of myself has made a difference in how I approach things," he said.
With a close-knit support crew of friends, family and mentors on the sidelines today, McCahon was now thinking ahead to the Grand Final.
"I will definitely be calling on my contacts for their knowledge and support. People are everything in this industry. A really big part of Young Farmers and this competition is the connections you build. I'm lucky to know some amazing and talented people who I'll be hitting up to help me scrub up on my weak points," he said.
Meanwhile, runner-up Poole, along with his wife Emma, took the plunge last year and entered into an equity partnership with his parents. He said he didn't have any expectations in the lead up to this regional final.
"I'm stoked to get runner-up. It's my second regional final, my first was a few years ago so I've got a bit of age and wisdom on my side now," he joked.
"I think I approached this year a lot more relaxed and confident in myself and my ability. I've also got some experience under my belt as an employer which came in handy with some of the questions that came up today."
Like McCahon, the sausage making module had Poole wanting to skip some steps and chuck them straight on BBQ. Sausage issues aside, Poole said he felt he performed well across the board and while this competition may be his last, he encouraged everyone to give it a go.
"I watch people like Edward Roskam who competed today, he did a sterling job for a bloke of only 17. He's a top bloke and is one to watch I think," he said.
"I'm hoping next competition I'll be on the sidelines supporting my wife, Emma, to compete. She'll do amazing I just know."
Hamilton City Young Farmers Club member Joshua Rainey said it was a privilege to compete alongside such talented people and that he was stoked with his placing.
"I'll admit I didn't prepare quite as well as I could have for today, but I had some great personal wins like smashing the drainage module first go. It's all about improving, learning new skills and making connections." he said.
"If you're thinking about competing just do it. Ask someone that's been through it and just give it a go. The judges are great at giving advice and guidance on how to improve when you've finished a module so take those notes on board," he said.
The 53rd season of contest was much awaited, after the remainder of the 2020 Contest season was cancelled amidst the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2019.
New Zealand Young Farmers CEO Lynda Coppersmith said 2021 FMG Young Farmer of the Year has so far been one of the fiercest seasons yet.
"We can't thank all of our amazing contestants, conveners and volunteers enough for their resilience, hard work and dedication," she said.
"The level of competition this year is absolutely outstanding. We have some seriously talented members in our ranks and it is a privilege to watch them all represent the food and fibre sector and grow as Young Farmers."
1st Kieran McCahon
2nd Chris Poole
3rd Joshua Rainey
Innovation and technology – Chris Poole
Food – Joshua Rainey
People – Kieran McCahon
Environment - Kieran McCahon
Exam Prize - Kieran McCahon