Milling a Breeze for Young Farmer Hopefuls

In the dark, a horn sounds, a duck swoops overhead and there is a mad dash to starting places, its 7am and time to get underway at the Grand Final of the National Bank Young Farmer of the Year competition. The venue for this event is the Village Green at the lakefront in Rotorua, which has been transformed from a quiet picturesque haven into a fully operational farm scene.

Beginning in Lincoln, Canterbury in 1969, the Young Farmer Contest has evolved into a nationwide event showcasing the various facets of farming and farm management. Testing a wide range of practical skills and problem solving, all contestants must perform under extreme time pressures.

Each year, young farmers from throughout New Zealand register to have the chance to win the coveted prize. With 21 district finals, 56 regional finals and one grand final, there are more than 300 hopefuls directly involved.

There are seven practical challenges in the Grand Final, that each contestant has to tackle; nutrient management, forestry and sawmilling, sheep farming, cattle farming, horticulture, fencing and arable.

Late last year, organizers contacted a local portable sawmill manufacturing company, Peterson Portable Sawmills, to ask for their support at this upcoming event. “We were proud to be asked because we believe this is the first time sawmilling has been a part of the practicum”, says Marketing Manager Layla Robinson.

Before the competition commenced, each competitor was introduced to the Peterson brand, at their factory in Rotorua. The main focus of the mini training session was on operational technique and personal safety. The competitors had no idea of their requirements before the event, and were simply given
written instructions at the start of the activity and only 45 minutes in which to complete it.

The forestry section of the competition was split into three; unloading logs with machinery, cutting the log to length and milling to specifications. Contestants were rated on five different techniques/skills essential for successful milling; rolling the log and wedging, vertical sizing, horizontal sizing, cutting the correct board sizes, and using the correct operating procedures. Points were deducting for not finishing the competition requirements within the time frame given.

Finalist Earl McSweeney was a keen enthusiast, “I loved using the mill and could have easily carried on cutting!”

Three members of the Peterson staff were present on site to overlook the operation; one to tail out, one as a safety/operational instructor and one to mill the remainder of the log once competitors had finished.

Peterson’s mandate is safety first, as Factory Manager Darron Kereama explains, “Our safety was of the highest standard, and Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) were more than pleased with our setup. The team performed well and we were polished in what we did. We made sure the guys were using the machinery in the safest way possible. It was a great day!”

Callum Thomson of Patoka, near Napier, has been working hard towards winning this title for the past five years, so much so that he was a Grand Finalist in 2006. Working even harder this time round, Callum was crowned the 2007 Young Farmer of the Year and walked away with more than $80,000 worth of prizes.

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