25 Aug 2017

Young growers cultivating success

From Country Life, 9:32 pm on 25 August 2017
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Photo: supplied

The annual Young Grower of the Year competition celebrates the talents of fruit and vegetable growers under 30. This year's competition demonstrated that the horticulture industry is in excellent hands.

The five finalists, Scott Wilcox, Ben Geaney, Erin Atkinson, Ralph Bastian and Jordon James, all competed in a series of practical and theoretical challenges designed to test the skills needed to run a successful export-focused horticultural business.

They also took part in a leadership discussion before delivering a speech on biosecurity to judges and the 200 guests at the awards dinner.

Erin Atkinson, a technical advisor for Apata Group in Te Puke, was named Young Grower of the Year. She is the first woman to win the title.

"I'm the daughter of a mechanic and chef, so no green thumbs in our family. I went to university to study horticulture and moved on into tomato growing, spent some time overseas and then made the shift to the kiwifruit world, which has been great," she says.

Erin was also named New Zealand's Young Fruit Grower of the Year and took out top honours in the best business, best innovation and best speech awards.

She will go on to represent the fruit and vegetable sectors at the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition.