As Rural Bachelor of the Year winner, Jeff Peek (30) sits on the sofa in his Morrinsville home, his phone buzzes relentlessly with messages and notifications.
A lot of it is stick from his friends and rugby team-mates – “It’ll keep going for a long time yet,” Jeff laughs – but amid the banter are messages from women the dairy farmer has met over the last few weeks.
He’s really not used to all the attention, but he smiles and admits he’s enjoying it.
“I’ve met a lot of girls, actually. There’s certainly a couple who have stuck in my mind,” he says. “I got some numbers, and the old Facebook has messages coming through. It’s coming from all different directions at the moment!”
While Jeff is now reaping the rewards of winning the famed Fieldays competition last month, the rugby-mad farmer says it took a lot of guts to enter.
“It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. It was a big thing to do, I won’t deny that, but I guess I took it all in my stride. I don’t tend to take things too seriously – you’ve always got to have a crack. I just thought, ‘Yeah, nah, bugger it.’”
The lure of the prize pack, which included a quad bike and more than $5000 worth of vouchers, was too good to pass up – but it was the prospect of meeting a “good Kiwi girl”, as well as having a much-needed break from the farm, that sealed the deal.
“I’m always on the farm,” he tells. “So it was a good way for me to out get out and meet new people, and get a bit of exposure. And I’ve been single for a while now.”
Competing alongside seven other eligible bachelors, Jeff spent the week travelling around the top of the North Island in a campervan before heading to Hamilton’s Mystery Creek, where the group had to complete challenges, including fence post digging, trailer backing, speed dating and serving high tea in a tiny pinny – which was when Jeff’s rugby mates decided to turn up to support him.
“I heard someone calling out my name, so I turned around and ‘click’ went the camera,” he says with a laugh.
“I had a few of them come to the speed dating round too, pulling faces at me and the girls I was talking to.
“But it was all in good fun. Now I can turn around and tell them what I won – that’s when their jaws drop!”
It was his ability to make a joke that clinched the competition for him, Jeff reckons.
“I thought I was doing okay, but it was hard to get a gauge on where I stood,” he says.
“There was the technical side of the events, but the judges were also looking at how you were going about the challenges – if you were head down, bum up and ignoring everyone else, or if you were having a laugh and taking things in your stride. It was important to have a giggle!”
Mum Linda was in the crowd to watch Jeff accept the Golden Gumboot, and despite her initial scepticism, couldn’t have been prouder of her eldest son.
“When I first told her that I was entering, she was absolutely shocked,” Jeff laughs. “I guess it might be a generational thing – the older generation didn’t put themselves out there like that.”
But now she’s even keener for her son to find a nice girl and settle down – provided she likes cows, rugby and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty.
“She has to be loyal, honest and family-oriented,” Jeff adds with a smile.
Whoever the lucky girl is, she’ll be hard pressed to take Jeff away from his true passion – dairy farming.
“I just love it,” he says with a grin. “You can’t beat being outside in open spaces.
Cows have such awesome personalities! You can take me away from the farm, but you’ll never take me from my career as a farmer, that’s for sure.”
For now, Jeff’s happy to “weigh up his options”– but he knows life in Morrinsville is never going to be the same.
“Yeah, I’ll be getting it in the neck for a while yet,” he says. “But that’s okay. It’s all definitely been worth it.”
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