Alex Ashe, a technical advisor at Farmlands Te Puna, was named Bay of Plenty’s Young Fruit Grower for 2019 at an awards dinner in Tauranga last night.
The practical competition took place last Saturday, 9 February, at Te Puke Showgrounds, where the eight competitors tested their skills and ability to run a successful orchard in a series of challenges. These were followed by a speech competition discussing future disruptors to horticulture at the gala dinner last night.
Alex applied to compete in Young Grower because he enjoys a challenge, and saw an opportunity to develop new skills. He also wants to promote horticulture as a career to younger generations, and feels that Young Grower is a great opportunity to do so.
Runner-up was Hamish McKain, an avocado / production manager at DMS Progrowers, while Emily Crum, an orchard manager at Prospa (EastPack) Te Puke,was third.
Alex’s prize includes all-expenses paid to compete for the title of national Young Grower of the Year 2019 in Tauranga in October, as well as $1500 cash. Alex also excelled in individual challenges, and especially impressed judges with his speech on future disruptors to the horticulture industry.
"It was such an enjoyable event because everybody was there to support each other," says Alex, "and everyone wants to help the youth of the industry do their best."
"Anybody who is looking to compete next year, give it a go; it’s a great event!"
Andrew Dawson, Chair of the Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Growers Upskilling Committee, says the 2019 event has again proven to have a high calibre of competitors.
"Congratulations to all of the contestants who displayed exceptional skills, as well as showing off the great variety of opportunities that are available in the horticulture industry."
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated CEO Nikki Johnson says, "It is essential that young people are attracted to join the kiwifruit industry to achieve our forecasted growth. The Young Fruit Grower competition provides an excellent example of the different commercial, technical and scientific opportunities that the industry offers. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of this year's competitors who have displayed the talent our industry has."
Horticulture New Zealand CE Mike Chapman agrees, and says that these competitions are a highlight of the annual horticulture calendar.
"As a Bay of Plenty local, I know that talented young people like Alex exist in our industry. The Bay of Plenty Young Grower competition shows the rest of the country what we’ve been saying all along; horticulture is a growth industry, and you can make an excellent career out of it if you put the effort in.
"Alex and the other contestants are exactly the kind of people the future of our industry will be based on, and it’s great to see them getting the limelight they deserve."
Alex will go on to compete in the national Young Grower of the Year competition, run by Horticulture New Zealand. There, they will join the winners of the Nelson, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, and Central Otago regionals, as well as a Young Vegetable Grower, to compete for the national title of Young Grower 2019, proudly sponsored by the Horticentre Trust.