The first Young Farmers’ clubs were established in the North Island (Feilding in 1927 and Auckland in 1932), but it was in the South Island that the movement flourished. In 1934, two years after the establishment of the Palmerston (Otago) Farmers’ Club, eight clubs in the Otago region formed New Zealand’s first Young Farmers’ Federation.
By 1935 there were 40 Young Farmers’ clubs within the federation, mainly in Otago (26), but also in Canterbury (7) and Southland (5). Two in Wairarapa were the only North Island clubs to be recognised by the federation. The adoption of a new constitution in July 1936, which included moving headquarters to an office in the Department of Agriculture at Wellington, made the organisation truly national. By April the following year, the federation’s 118 clubs were almost evenly distributed between the North Island (58) and the South Island (60). Although many of the clubs went into recess during the Second World War, leaving only 72, the movement quickly recovered in the years afterwards – going from 104 clubs in 1945 to 306 in 1948.
Country Girls’ Club
The Country Girls’ Club movement emerged after the Second World War, when the suggestion that girls be included in Young Farmers’ clubs was rejected in favour of forming a separate girls’ organisation. The Country Girls’ Club Federation was based on the Young Farmers’ Club Federation, who gave them financial support to get established, as did the Country Women’s Institute and the Women’s Division of Federated Farmers.
The winner of the Young Farmer of the Year competition receives a range of practical prizes, which in 2007 were valued at $78,785. They included vehicles, machinery, fertiliser, cash and clothing.
Young Farmer of the Year
One activity of Young Farmers’ clubs was to organise the Young Farmer of the Year competition, first contested in 1969. Skellerup was the event’s principal sponsor until 2003, when it was replaced by the National Bank of New Zealand. The contest involves a series of tasks that test practical, business-management, problem-solving and social skills.
Federation of Rural Youth
In 1972 the Young Farmers’ and Country Girls’ federations combined to become the Federation of Rural Youth. A year later, new rules were defined and the group was renamed the New Zealand Federation of Young Farmers Clubs. In 2003 the federation was again renamed New Zealand Young Farmers, and became increasingly linked with the Young Farmer of the Year competition. In 2005, Young Farmers’ administration was transferred to the competition’s head office in Ashburton. The next year, the Young Farmer of the Year competition board merged with the Young Farmers’ board.