A young fruit grower from Katikati secured first place at the Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower 2015 competition on Wednesday 24 June.
Craig Ward (26), who works as a Technical Advisor at Apata Group Limited, battled it out against seven other young fruit growers from Katikati, Whangarei and Te Puke for the title*.
“It was great fun to compete against so many other talented young growers and I know we each put all our efforts into the competition,” said Craig. “I’m really stoked to walk away with the top prize – I wasn’t expecting it at all as I was so impressed by the work everyone else was doing. It was definitely a close competition.”
Craig won a $1500 cash prize, and as a Young Grower of the Year finalist, he also won a one-day media and presentation course in Auckland and an all-expenses paid trip to Christchurch to compete in the national Young Grower of the Year competition, run by Horticulture New Zealand on 12-13 August.
“I know that the national competition will be an even bigger challenge than this one, but I feel well prepared. To be honest I’m just looking forward to getting stuck in, doing my best and seeing what I can learn from the other competitors. Most of us work with different produce so it will be interesting to see which skills are the same and which are different,” added Craig.
“I would definitely recommend this competition to any young fruit growers. It’s a great way to push yourself in all elements of the job and you get the chance to meet some really supportive people who can help you with your career.”
The day-long competition, which took place at Mills Reef Winery in Tauranga, involved a range of practical and theoretical challenges to test the skills necessary to run a successful fruit growing business.
President of New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated, Neil Trebilco, said the competition is an opportunity for young fruit growers to put themselves out there and showcase their talent.
“This has been another excellent demonstration of the talent we have here in the Bay of Plenty and the wider region including Northland. There are some tremendous opportunities in the fruit growing industry, and we are delighted that this group is taking advantage of them and also encouraging other young people to consider a career in this sector,” said Mr Trebilco.
Simon Bowker (28) from EHC Orchard Management, Te Puke, took second place and won $1000 cash, and Aaron Hokopaura (24) from Aongatete Coolstores Limited, Katikati, secured third place with a prize of $500 cash.
Reuben Wallis from Whangarei and Chris Clement, Courtenay McBride, Greg Brown and Samantha Mansell from Te Puke also competed.
Images from the Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower 2015 competition are available on request.
*Contestants from regions that do not have a local competition are allowed to compete in other regional competitions at the discretion of each competition’s organising committee.