A woman has been crowned New Zealand's most eligible farmer for the first time.
Taihape's Mairi Whittle took home the coveted prize of the golden gumboot in the Fieldays Rural Catch competition today, beating seven other contestants - three women and four men.
The event replaced the Rural Bachelor of the Year competition, which has been a popular fixture on the Fieldays calendar for 13 years, allowing bachelorettes to compete with the bachelors for the first time this year.
Whittle, 28, told the Herald on Sunday she was stoked to win the award and hoped to use the profile it gave her to be a role model to other woman farmers.
"It was such a surprise. Amazing."
Whittle said the competition was full on but enjoyable.
She said she was peer pressured into entering but figured she would give it a go because "why not? there's nothing to lose".
The group had to complete 11 challenges, which included tests of their tractor skills, fitness and inseminating a cow.
As well as the title of Rural Catch 2018 and the golden gumboot trophy Whittle won $20,000 worth of prizes, including a Suzuki ATV quad bike, a $2000 Swanndri voucher, a $1500 STIHL voucher and a $1000 Skellerup voucher.
The vouchers will be put to good use when Whittle returns to her childhood home in a couple of months to start leasing her parents' 1500 acre farm, which she hopes to one day buy.
Whittle grew up on a farm and then studied at Lincoln University before spending five years working as a rural bank manager. But she always planned to return to farming and has been working out in the paddocks for the past 18 months.
"I love the physical aspect of it - the range of things you're doing every day," she said.
"Every day is so different."
Her average workday starts at first light - 5am in summer and 7.30am in winter - and finishes about 5pm. It involves moving livestock around, weighing the animals, putting up fences, "all sorts really".
Getting to work with humble, hardworking people was another perk of the job.
"You can't beat farmers and rural people really," said Whittle.
While she joked that her new title as Rural Catch might help her find a husband, Whittle wasn't in a rush to settle down, saying "we will see".
She described her ideal man as "just a good bugger really".
"Someone who's interested in rural life and willing to move to Taihape because that's where I'm setting myself up. Give us a hand on the farm and around the house."