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Vegetable industry cultivates healthy competition

Four of the finest young vegetable growers in New Zealand will go toe-to-toe in the Young Vegetable Grower of the Year competition in Christchurch on Friday, 18 May.

The champion will progress to the Young Grower of the Year national final, to be held in Hawke’s Bay in August. There, they will join the winners of the Bay of Plenty, Central Otago, Hawke’s Bay, and Nelson regional fruit-grower competitions, to vie for the national title of Young Grower 2018.

This year’s entrants are:

- Esteban Ibanez, 30, production agronomist, Leaderbrand South Island, Ashburton

- Glen Laing, 18, crop operations assistant for Hinemoa Quality Producers Ltd, Pukekawa

- Lincoln Roper, 18, general worker, Roper & Sons, Christchurch

- Gurjant Singh, 27, assistant grower, T&G, Auckland

Contestants will demonstrate their knowledge and skills around topics vital to the management of a successful horticulture business, including forklift proficiency, profitability, and plant nutrition. The winner will be decided at an awards dinner that night, where they will speak to an audience from throughout the industry about the future disruptors to horticulture.

Prizes for the winner include sponsorship to attend the annual Horticulture Conference in July, a media and presentation development course, and an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the national 2018 Young Grower of the Year title in August. There are also prizes for the winners of each individual competition event.

The Young Vegetable Grower competition is organised by the Horticulture Canterbury Growers Society. Mike Arnold, chair of the Horticulture Canterbury Growers Society, says the competition is a highlight of the local industry’s calendar.

"We’re all excited and ready to go here, and everyone is really looking forward to the competition," says Arnold.

"The six events, including speeches, will test the competitor’s mettle, and show that vegetable growing is a lot of work, but that there’s definitely more to it than people think."

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says this competition is vital to the future of the growing industry.

"Young Grower showcases the amazing talent we have working in our horticulture industry. It demonstrates not only the career opportunities in horticulture, but also the potential rewards of these roles, and the skills required to achieve them," Chapman says.

""Horticulture is growing rapidly and we need more skilled people, so competitions such as this will hopefully attract more people. Last year, Scott Wilcox of A S Wilcox & Sons in Pukekohe took the trophy, but this year is anyone’s game; these people truly are the future of the industry.

The Young Vegetable Grower of the Year competition and awards dinner will be held at the Sudima Airport Hotel in Christchurch.

A small number of tickets are still available. For more information on the competition and tickets, visit www.younggrower.co.nz.


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