Matt Gomm, orchard leader at the Burnside Trust, has been named as the first ever Gisborne Young Fruit Grower of the Year at a gala awards dinner on Thursday night.
Some of the best young horticulturalists in Gisborne took part in the competition at Kaiaponi Farms yesterday. The event saw contestants facing a series of challenges designed to test their knowledge and skills around topics vital to the management of a successful orchard, including fencing, biosecurity, and tractor safety. They also delivered a speech to a crowd of 110 people at the White House, including Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon, on the importance of innovation and technology in fruit growing.
Matt, 23, got his start in horticulture five years ago, when he began as an orchard hand with Bostocks NZ. He now works as orchard leader at the Burnside Trust, and says that the competition was an excellent experience.
"I’m still a bit shocked I won, to be honest," says Matt. "The variety of challenges was really interesting, and we all got stuck in and gave it our best.
"The whole competition was great, and I can’t wait to give nationals a go."
As winner of the inaugural Gisborne Young Fruit Grower Competition, Matt will progress to the Young Grower of the Year national final, to be held in Napier on 22 August. There, he will join the winners of the Bay of Plenty, Central Otago, Hawke’s Bay, and Nelson regional fruit grower competitions, as well as two Young Vegetable Growers, to contend for the national title of Young Grower of the Year 2018.
Krista Manuel from Kaiaponi Farms came in second, while third place went to Emily Samuel of Thompsons Horticulture.
This event was unique as, in addition to the formal competition, an open competition was run for apprentices, with no age or experience restrictions, to take part in the modules as well. There were 11 competitors in this open category.
The competition was organised with the help of Scott Wilson of Kaiaponi Farms, Gisborne, and facilitated by Horticulture New Zealand.
"This is the first time Gisborne has hosted a Young Grower event, and we can certainly see the talent here," says HortNZ director Barry O'Neil, who attended alongside fellow directors Leon Stallard and Hugh Ritchie.
"Seeing young people like this is so encouraging for our industry; they’re leaders already, and hopefully will take industry leadership roles in the future."
"This is a historic event for Gisborne, and brings together all of our fruit-growing sectors," says Kaiaponi general manager Scott Wilson. "We need to highlight and support the young achievers in our industry, and this is how to do it."
Matt’s prize includes a professional development tour to Hawke's Bay to learn about horticulture, a trip to the Horticulture Conference in Christchurch later this month (courtesy of NZ Apples and Pears Inc.), a cash prize of $1,500, and of course an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the national 2018 Young Grower of the Year title in Napier this August.