Sam Hodsell has been crowned Otago/Southland Region FMG Young Farmer of the Year.
The 50/50 sharemilker took out the top spot with a knockout score of 512 points, beating second place getter Tom Blackmore by 14 points.
This was Hodsell's second regional final, having come third in the 2016 regional final.
"Having done a regional final before, I felt I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going into today," he said.
"Obviously, Covid changed the way the competition normally runs, which is disappointing for those who organised it but did a great job putting on today's event, so credit to them."
Hodsell,28, spent a bit of time over the ditch in Australia expanding his agricultural experience on a sheep, beef and cropping farm before coming home to get stuck into his dairying career.
"I really enjoy what I do. Agriculture is it for me. So, doing this competition is an extension of what I love to do, so that's been my main motivation, I guess for this competition," he said.
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.
The Lincoln University Alumni took out three of the four strainer prizes along with the exam prize.
Hodsell said while he's got some studying up to do in the lead up to the grand final, he is looking forward to the opportunity to test his skills against some of the country's best.
Hodsell has won a spot in the Grand Final in Christchurch in July to battle it out for the FMG Young Farmer of the Year national title.
"I set out to have a great day and enjoy the experience, so to take out the top spot is pretty great," he said.
The eight regional finalists competed in eight modules and battled it out head-to-head in two time and point races at Donovan Park in Invercargill on Saturday March 6.
A written exam and the famous FMG Young Farmer of the Year buzzer quiz also tested the regional finalist's knowledge.
The two head-to-heads had contestants racing against the clock to test their cooking, chainsaw, fencing and planting skills.
From cooking three types of protein to some quick chainsaw and fencing work the competitors said it was a highlight of the day.
Runner-up Tom Blackmore,26, said that he surprised himself by taking out the Innovation and Technology strainer and was overall pleased with his performance.
"I'm really pleased. In some ways, it's a bit disappointing to come second again, but I couldn't be prouder of Sam for his win, and I really enjoyed the day, which is what it's all about really," he said.
Blackmore has spent the last five years as a stock manager at Limehills Herefords in Central Otago and is about to start a new job managing a large-scale lamb and cattle finishing operation in Tarras for Alpine Pastures.
"The prep work I put in for last year's event paid off for this year. My partner Elsie put in some solid hours reading quiz cards to me. I've got another few years left in me of competition, so I'll definitely be back next year to give the top spot a crack," he said.
First-time competitor George Blyth,21, took out third place.
"Feeling really proud and excited about it. Being my first competition, I took on advice from other past competitors and tried to stay relaxed and keep a clear head," he said.
Blyth works as a senior shepherd on Caterhope Estate near Balclutha and is looking forward to coming back next year to compete.
"I'm really keen to get other people in my club to come along and compete. It's more than a competition, it's a networking event, and you learn so much," he said.
James Fox, Otago/Southland Regional Final Convener, said that while the last week had been challenging making changes to the event, he was pleased with how the day turned out.
"We were semi-prepared for this sort of thing to happen. It is disappointing for everyone not to have the awards night, but there's a bigger picture going on. We are just pleased we were able to have an event and have an Otago/Southland representative heading to the grand final."
"We're really thankful to everyone for understanding the changes, and we had a great group of people here competing today. We'll have to make sure we take up a good group of people to support Sam in July," 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."