THERE are a record 12 finalists for this year's Ballarat Rural Achiever Awards, to be announced on Saturday night.
Judges whittled down the record number of entries to the final dozen last Friday, with the three winners to be announced at the Ballarat Rural Achiever Awards and Charity Fundraiser at the Bungaree Community Centre this coming weekend.
The award, first established in 2009 as a single prize, was divided into three separate honours this year, to attract a greater number of entries.
That decision proved to be a good one, Ballarat Agricultural and Pastoral Society Youth Committee chairman Shane Zammit said.
"The number of entries was up by about 50 per cent this year," Mr Zammit explained.
"That is partially due to the timing of the award being different this year. Generally it would have been in November with the opening of the Ballarat Show when a lot of farmers are very busy with harvest and putting in summer crops.
"But by splitting it into three categories it also gave a more specific criteria for each category, and that attracted a broader range of entries.
"Incorporating an apprentice of the year category, in particular, attracted a large number of entrants from apprentices whereas we might not have had any in previous years.
"In all honesty it has been extraordinary the quality of young people nominated across the board. There were quite a few very motivated young people entered."
The finalists were selected by a panel of three judges: Michael Daunt and Amanda Mason from the Ballarat Agricultural and Pastoral Society executive committee and Jo Curkpatrick from the Central Highlands Agribusiness Forum. The winner of each award will receive $1000 in prize money, with the runners-up to receive $500.
The Ballarat Rural Achiever Awards and Charity Fundraiser starts 6.30pm on Saturday, with guest speaker Mark Quartermain from the Australian Wool Network, and music until late.
Proceeds from a charity auction will be donated to beyondblue.
BALLARAT RURAL ACHIEVER AWARDS
Agriculture Apprentice of the Year: Eric Greenwood (Learmonth), Callum Murphy (Dunnstown), Hannah Bailey (Napoleons), Malcolm Fletcher (Dundonnell) and Michael White (Bungaree)
Next Generation Farmer of the Year: Renee Kopke-Miller (Smeaton), Sanjan Dawson (Skipton) and Ashley Porter (Avoca)
Young Agribusiness Achiever of the Year: Rohan Brown (Miners Rest), Alexandra Martin (Ballarat), Mitchell Henderson (Ballarat) and Charles Edmonston (Ballarat)
AT A GLANCE
BALLARAT RURAL ACHIEVER AWARDS AND CHARITY FUNDRAISER
WHERE: Bungaree Community Centre
WHEN: Saturday, from 6.30pm
HOW MUCH: $80 including three course meal