Ellen Watt from Waitaki Orchards, Kurow, has been named the Central Otago Young Fruitgrower of the Year, following a day-long competition in Cromwell today.
The competition saw six of the region’s top young orchardists engage in a series of challenges designed to test the skills needed to successfully run a thriving fruit-growing business. Events included irrigation, pest and disease identification, tractor maintenance, and first aid.
Ellen co-manages the family packhouse with her older sister, oversees the spraying programme, and organises compliance audits. Ten years ago, there was nothing she could imagine that would make her an orchardist. Now, there's nothing she'd rather do.
"I’m really stoked to have won," says Ellen. "Coming in this morning I had no idea how it was going to go, but I got more confident through the day and I guess that paid off."
"I’m definitely glad I gave it a go; this is a great way to really get young people working together."
Second place went to Tim Officer of Dunstan Hills, while Lyssa Jones of M A Orchards took third.
Ellen, along with four other regional Young Fruit Growers and two Young Vegetable Growers, will go on to compete for the 2019 Young Grower of the Year title in Tauranga on 1-2 October.
Horticulture New Zealand vice-president Bernadine Guilleux said that people like Ellen are exactly what the horticulture industry needs.
"Horticulture is growing and changing, and how we grow has to change with it," says Bernadine. "People like Ellen and the other competitors are the ones that will bring us into tomorrow.
"We have some really exciting times ahead."
The Central Otago Young Fruit Grower of the Year competition is organised by Grant McKay, regional manager for Horticentre, and facilitated by Horticulture New Zealand. Now in its thirteenth year, the competition continues to show the value provided to the fruit growing industry by young people, and aims to encourage more to enter the sector.
"It's great to see collaboration in the industry, and the support shown tonight has been incredible," says Grant. "We've got people from all over Central Otago here tonight, and everyone's here to support these young growers.
"It's been another excellent event."
Prizes for the winner include free registration for the Summerfruit NZ and NZ Apples and Pears conferences, and an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the national 2019 Young Grower of the Year title in Tauranga this October.