Duncan Greive awoke early on Sunday to milk the first episode of The Road to the Young Farmer of the Year so that his fellow city slickers could stay sound asleep.
Last Sunday, at the farmer-friendly hour of 6.30am, The Road to the Young Farmer of the Year Final debuted on One. Seeing as The Spinoff’s notoriously townie-heavy audience was either still out raving or sleeping off an epic bender at that time, we bring you this pictorial report to show how the Otago-Southland regionals went down.
This year’s event was held in sunny Queenstown, and featured the eight finest young farmers from across the region competing in classic farming events like ‘identifying fruit and veg’; ‘playing with an iPad’ and ‘jetski maintenance’. It culminated in a University Challenge-style quiz, followed by intense and wooden speeches from the four finalists.
The show opens with Mark Leishman, on the distinctly un-farmlike pebble beach of Lake Wakatipu. Behind him stands a small boy, but Leishman’s once-dazzling starpower has faded to the point where the kid can’t even be bothered to turn around and make funny faces at the camera. In the lifecycle of a host, Young Farmer is the end of the line. From here on in its MCing school fairs and bingo at retirement villages. I think Leishman knows it, too.
The first challenge is ‘cooking a burger’. This terrifying murderer-looking guy is a bit worried. He actually said that! It’s a direct quote. Young Farmer is like time-traveling to a different New Zealand.
Not that there aren’t heaps of great jobs available for young women or anything… To be fair there was a female entrant, but she did very badly and got almost no screen time.
Next they used fancy iPads to make a video promoting Queenstown, because that’s the kind of thing young farmers are always having to do down on their young farms. This was followed by jetski repair. Fancy burgers, promotional video shoots and jetskis. At this point the show was more Young Property Developer, but agriculture was about to come roaring back.
Here they had to identify various types of fruit and veg. I’m neither young nor a farmer, but that line-up doesn’t look too hard to pick.
Honestly, what in the hell is going wrong with this world when the word ‘upcycling’ is on a graphic for a farming show. It wasn’t particularly clear what they actually did here. Sawed up some pallets then wandered off. Which is probably how most upcycling ends, so maybe it was authentic? They then attempted some deeply weird physical challenges in the decathlon, including ‘slow bike riding’ and ‘cinder block jigsaw’. At this point farming looked exactly like a grown-ups version of daycare.
Finally we reached the intellectual section of the competition. An intense, spotlit quiz round, after which the four highest placegetters got to make speeches. They were pretty daggy, typified by Josh Davies’ “a former employer of mine once gave me this advice: marry for land; love will come later.” Which is nice, though Josh claimed, sweetly, that he’d found both. Hang on, maybe that’s still horrible? Hard to know these days.
Speech of the night, though, came from Logan Wallace, who launched an extraordinary attack on the fun police who want to sort out this country’s turgid, lifeless lakes and streams. “New Zealand’s water quality is some of the best in the world,” he told an approving crowd. “Don’t let people tell you otherwise. One of the problems we have is a small group of people bamming around things, saying New Zealand’s got poor qater quality and it’s because of the farmers.”
No more bamming OK guys?
In the end it was Steve Henderson who took it out. He’s 28 years old, a veteran of the comp, but still with three years of eligibility before he hits the deeply arbitrary cut off age of 31. He was also the best dude of the bunch, selflessly deferring to his wife as farm boss and generally seeming like proper nice farmer. He’s sharemilking his bum off, and aiming to ‘buy the farm’ (literally, not figuratively) in 2022. I’m rooting for you Steve, in life and on the strange facsimile of it known as The Road to the Young Farmer of the Year Final.
The Road to the Young Farmer of the Year Final screens on One, Sundays at 6.30am.