A Bay of Plenty woman has been named as the first woman to win the title of Young Grower of the Year at an awards event in Christchurch, last night.
Erin Atkinson, 30, technical advisor for Apata Group in Te Puke, who has a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and has spent most of her working life in the horticulture industry, was named Young Grower at the awards after putting her skills, knowledge and experience to test against four other finalists.
Erin, who won the Bay of Plenty section in February, also secured the national title of Young Fruit Grower of the Year along with the best business, best innovation and best speech titles.
She said she was extremely proud to have been named Young Grower, especially as the standard of the other finalists was very high.
“It was an extremely challenging competition but I've really enjoyed meeting the other finalists and am looking forward to taking the award back to Te Puke.”
Runner-up for Young Grower was Scott Wilcox of Pukekohe, who is also Young Vegetable Grower 2017 and third place went to Ben Geaney of Waimate.
The Young Grower of the Year is an annual competition to determine the best young grower in the country and is run by Horticulture New Zealand and sponsored by the Horticentre Trust.
The competition is now in its 11th year and is part of Horticulture New Zealand's strategy to support the growth and development of New Zealand's future horticultural leaders.
During the competition, all five finalists are required to compete in a series of practical and theoretical challenges designed to test the skills needed to run a successful export-focused horticultural business.
Finalists also took part in a leadership panel discussion before delivering a speech on biosecurity in front of the judges at the awards dinner attended by 200 people.
Judges looked for individuals who could make a difference in their sectors and the industry, going beyond great skills to also include leadership, attitude and personality.
Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Chapman, said the aim of the competition was to foster excellence amongst young growers and future-proof a $5.6 billion industry that exports 60% of total production to 124 countries.
“The Young Grower competition is a great way to nurture the interest and passion of younger generations as well as showcase the industry. It's a very rewarding industry to be in and it so encouraging to see the depth of young talent demonstrated this week. We look forward to seeing the career progression of each of these potential industry leaders.”