Farmer of year convener on the go

Sarah Heddell has taken on the convener role for next year's FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand final, to be held in Christchurch. Photo: Toni Williams
Sarah Heddell has taken on the convener role for next year's FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand final, to be held in Christchurch. Photo: Toni Williams
Sarah Heddell's mind is racing.

As the convener for next year's FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand final, in Christchurch, responsibility for its success rests on her shoulders.

She may have a year to prepare, and a committee full of people to help, but the time will go fast.

Finding suitable venues, funding, working out health and safety, traffic management plans and the logistics of running three different components within a budget.

But she can handle it. She's done it before - albeit on a smaller scale - helping to run four Tasman Young Farmer regional finals and convening two of them.

She was also involved with the ''very successful'' Young Farmer of the Year grand final event hosted by the Tasman region in 2014.

Plus she has the support of a 15-or-so, strong committee, including vice-convener Vanessa Robinson.

''They're some really great people,'' she said, adding the committee may grow in the lead up to the event.

The Young Farmer competition has been testing the knowledge and stamina of the nation's young farmers since 1969 and showcases the country's food and fibre producers.

It is an iconic event in New Zealand which now includes the AgriKidsNZ and TeenAg competitions.

''I love everything about the contest. It challenges people and helps them to learn and grow, it highlights the vital role the agri-food sector plays in the economy and it also brings people together,'' said Ms Heddell.

''This is a really exciting opportunity to highlight the important role Canterbury plays in our agri-food sector,'' she said.

The event, hosted by the Tasman Young Farmers' region, will showcase the diversity in the region with its mix of dairy, sheep and beef, and cropping operations. Half of New Zealand's total grain seed and fodder crop land is in Canterbury.

It is a dream role for Ms Heddell and likely her swansong event as she transitions out of Young Farmers.

The 31-year-old, most recently involved with Dunsandel Young Farmers', works for Environment Canterbury (ECan) as a land management and biodiversity adviser.

She lives in Ashburton township but is a country girl at heart with ''strong ties'' to rural Mid Canterbury.

Her parents, Helen and Peter Heddell, raised her first on a sheep/beef/crop farm at Pendarves, before moving to a similar operation at Okains Bay.

The family connection to the district lives on with a drain in Hinds named after them.

''It's the Heddell-Smythe Drain, which I only found out about when I started working at ECan.''

''I'm lucky to work in this area. The things happening here are so cool. The innovation and technology is incredible.''

Next year will Ms Heddell's 10th year of involvement in the contest, although as an organising committee member, never a competitor.

As host region for the grand final event, the organising committee plans the practical tests of the competition and some of the technical challenges. Competitors would do well to remember where she works, it may come in handy with training.

Growing up, Ms Heddell remembers the excitement of watching the grand final event on television when it was beamed nationwide.

The competition is as much for the competitors as showcasing the skills of people in the rural sector to the rest of the country, she said.

So now it was livestreamed she wanted to make sure spectators could see, hear and understand what was going on during the event, whether they were at the venue or watching from a couch at home.

Ms Heddell confirms Blinc Innovation, at Lincoln University has been confirmed as the venue for the technical day but discussions were ongoing with Christchurch City Council about locations for other key aspects of the event.

''I'd like to have the opening parade and ceremony in the city ... a lively event involving school children from across New Zealand,'' she said.

It's just another point to add to her growing ''to do'' list.

The grand final will take place from July 2 to 4, 2020.

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