Young growers vie for national title

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Seven of the country’s top young growers are battling it out at Mount Maunganui today in the opening round of the 2019 Young Grower of the Year competition.

This is the first time the Bay of Plenty has hosted  the national competition run by Horticulture New Zealand to find the best young fruit or vegetable grower in the country.

Finalists are the winners of the four regional Young Fruit Grower competitions and joint winners of the NZ Young Vegetable Grower contest.

The annual event has come to TrustPower BayPark following two successive wins by Bay of Plenty women growers.

 In 2017, Erin Atkinson of Te Puke became the first woman ever to win the title in the competition’s 11-year history, and in 2018, Danni van der Heijden took the top award too.

Today, contestants take part in three theory tests on insurance, computer skills and innovation and four practical events involving tractor driving, repairing water systems, managing pests and diseases and the safe handling, use and storage of hazardous substances. Later in the day they participate in a leadership panel.

The winners will be announced at a gala dinner on Wednesday night, following the contestants’ final test – delivering a speech, before an audience of around 270 people, based on the question: What is the next billion-dollar horticultural industry following on from kiwifruit and apples, and why?

The 2019 finalists in the Young Grower of the Year are:

Alex Ashe, 25, Bay of Plenty Young Grower of the Year, who works for Ashe Farms, his family’s kiwifruit and avocado orchard. Alex has a Bachelor of Agricultural Science, majoring in horticulture, from Massey University.

Ellen Watt, 23, Central Otago Young Grower of the Year, whose current role includes overseeing the spray programme, organising compliance audits, and co-managing the packhouse at Waitaki Orchards, Kurow. She has also trained as a baker.

Regan Judd, 23, Hawke’s Bay Young Grower of the Year is a senior lead hand with T&G Pipfruit in Hawkes Bay and has a Bachelor of Agri-science, majoring in horticulture, from Massey University.

Sam Tietjen, 26, Gisborne Young Grower of the Year is the fourth generation of Tietjens on the land and is in the process of taking over management of the family holding, Braemark Vineyard, which is planted in a combination of grapes, mandarins and lemons.

Craig Botting, 24, joint winner of the Young Vegetable Grower of the year works for a vegetable company in North Canterbury supplying supermarkets year-round. His role involves overseeing the whole transplanting operation and operating a tractor in all areas of production.  

Jono Sutton, 26, Nelson Young Grower of the Year, is a seventh-generation to grow up on the family farm. Jono carries out a wide range of roles, from staff supervision, machinery operation, and packhouse manager to block development and long-term planning.

Austin Singh Purewal, 18, joint winner of the 2019 Young Vegetable Grower of the year, is part of the T&G Global Key Accounts Team. Previously he worked in the family business, Purewal Growers Ltd, with a range of responsibilities including growing, staff management, sales and shipping.

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