After a lengthy battle, Danni van der Heijden was crowned Young Grower of the Year 2018 at an event in Napier last night.
Danni, 24, was named the winner after a day-long gauntlet of horticultural challenges, testing her skills and knowledge to the limits. As the regional Bay of Plenty champion, she beat out six other contestants for the title, and also secured the national title of Young Fruit Grower of the Year, along with finance, innovation, and speech awards.
First runner-up was Lisa Arnold from Hawke’s Bay, while third place went to Central Otago’s Hamish Darling.
Danni works as a technical advisor for AVOCO in Tauranga, where her role includes technical support, data analysis, mapping, research, and avocado nursery support. She was thrilled to win and continue the streak of Bay of Plenty women taking the national title, following the example set by Erin Atkinson last year.
"It’s really great to have won, and bring the title back to the Bay of Plenty," said Danni. "I was convinced to enter by both last year’s winner and some colleagues, and I’m very glad I came back.
"This is a wonderful industry and a great career; it’s diverse, there’s lots to learn, and you can see the results of your work every day. I love what I do, and I’m thrilled to have won."
Alongside the practical and business modules, the contestants took part in a leadership panel discussion on sustainability, and delivered a speech to an awards dinner attended by over 200 people, where they spoke of the future of horticulture as we strive towards a carbon-zero future.
"We can remain static and get left behind," Danni said during her award-winning speech, "or as an industry we can innovate, develop new technologies, and thrive."
The Young Grower of the Year competition is run by Horticulture New Zealand and supported by Platinum sponsor Horticentre Charitable Trust. Horticulture New Zealand President Julian Raine said that the Young Grower competition aims to foster excellence in young people in horticulture, and all the finalists perfectly embodied this ideal.
"Danni is a fantastic young grower, and an excellent representation of the talent both in the Bay of Plenty and New Zealand as a whole. With such a great crop of finalists, and more regions joining the competition, I’m hoping to see even more next year; maybe even a Northland regional finalist.
"This was a hard-won victory, and Danni deserves it."
The 2018 competitors were:
- Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower 2018 - Danni van der Heijden.
- New Zealand Young Vegetable Grower 2018 (1st equal) - Esteban Ibanez.
- New Zealand Young Vegetable Grower 2018 (1st equal) - Gurjant Singh.
- Central Otago Young Fruit Grower 2018 - Hamish Darling.
- Nelson Young Fruit Grower 2018 - Dillon Peterson.
- Hawke’s Bay Young Fruit Grower 2018 - Lisa Arnold.
- Gisborne Young Fruit Grower 2018 - Matt Gomm.
Media images are available here.