“But what it does represent is just a point on the continuum of the evolution of agriculture. I don’t think this is a starting or an endpoint for females in agriculture. It just shows that someone in the agricultural industry can look like anyone these days.”
Time management and keeping a cool head were keys to winning the prestigious 2023 FMG Young Farmer of the Year, Emma Poole says.
Married to Chris Poole, the 28-year-old dairy farmer has an 18-month-old son, and with calving adding pressure during the lead-up, her support team and mentors comprising Chris and her brother Tim were vital to her success, she says.
Competing in the event is familiar territory for the family; Tim was last year’s winner and Chris the runner-up, while Emma competed in the grand final in 2019.
“They were both really just encouraging me; it gets really hard when you come home from a long day of work and then motivate yourself to sit at the computer to do a bit of study or anything like that.”
Going into the competition, Emma had a degree of confidence, but there was also a large element of uncertainty due to not knowing what challenges would be presented. She felt her strengths included having competed before, consequently, she had the ability and mindset to be adaptable and problem-solve, she says.
“When the competition threw something at me, I was able to either get it wrong but still make a plan and move on, or get it right and not get too confident, and still focus on the job at hand.”
She believes the mental element accounted for at least 30% of the competition. “You’ve definitely got to have a clear head because there were so many times during the contest when I made mistakes and things didn’t go well for me, but I was just able to make a new plan and carry on, because if you get down about things then it really does affect your overall score.”
The most difficult was a human relations challenge role-played by a very disgruntled ‘employee’. The contestants were required to ascertain what was upsetting the employee and try and come up with a plan that would appease them.
Emma thought handling this kind of scenario was one of her strong points, but it proved a lot more difficult than she anticipated. “It did almost derail me a little bit. It was 100% realistic.”
Held over three days, the grand final comprised examinations, the HR challenge and others behind closed doors on day one, practical Agri-Sports challenges in public on day two which accounted for at least 50% of the total points, and a quiz on the evening of the third day followed by the awards presentation.
Alongside the coveted title, iconic trophy and famous Cloak of Knowledge, Emma claimed $90,000 in prizes due to the generosity of the event’s sponsors. Major prizes included a compact tractor, a quadbike, the option of fertiliser or professional development, and $15,000 in cash.
Winning the competition was “pretty overwhelming, but also exciting,” Emma says. “I’d seen the opportunities that Tim had gathered from his win, so I knew that was ahead of me. Of course, all the prizes have a very valued place in our life on the farm, so we’re pretty excited about that, that’s a huge leg up for us in the industry.”
Despite being the first female winner, this did not add or take away anything she says. “But what it does represent is just a point on the continuum of the evolution of agriculture. I don’t think this is a starting or an endpoint for females in agriculture.”
“It’s just part of the changing nature of the job [however] it’s pretty cool, I’ve had lots of females come up to me since and say it’s an inspirational story for them so that aspect of it’s been really neat. It just shows that someone in the agricultural industry can look like anyone these days.”
Chris and Emma are in an equity partnership with Chris’ parents John and Anne Poole who own a large-scale dairy business comprising two farms close to each other near Pirongia.
© Waterford Press Ltd 2023 – Independent Print Media New Zealand