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Otago woman named NZ’s top young amenity horticulturist

Media Release

FRIDAY, JULY 18, 2014

Otago woman named NZ’s top young amenity horticulturist

New Zealand’s top young amenity horticulturist has been found after an intense day of competition at the Young Amenity Horticulturist of the Year event in Hamilton yesterday.

The annual competition is run by the New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) and serves as the qualifier for the prestigious Horticulturist of the Year competition, which will be hosted in Auckland in November.

Otago woman Sarah Fenwick emerged as the judge’s choice after planning, planting and potting her way to victory. The 30-year-old former vet nurse narrowly beat second place getter Josh van der Hulst, from Kamo, to take out the prize.

“It was nice that a female took it out,” says Sarah. “The guys have the brute strength but females often bring more of a level headed approach.”

Competition contestants were judged on practical elements such as potting, nursery skills, machinery maintenance and repair, as well as business and speaking skills.

“As gardeners you have to be a jack of all trades. We have to be able to fix a rotary hoe if it’s broken, maintain a weed eater, and have the business and industry knowledge to develop and present a formal quote.”

Sarah says she has always been a keen gardener, but it wasn’t until three years ago that she decided to make amenity horticulture her career. She now works for Delta providing amenity horticultural services to councils in the Otago region.

“I used to be a vet nurse but after five years in the job I decided I didn’t want to work inside anymore. I realised I wanted to be outside, getting my hands dirty working with plants.”

One of Sarah’s passions is sustainability and she hopes to raise awareness of the need for more sustainable practices in the industry when she competes at the Horticulturist of the Year finals event in Auckland. She says plastic pots and black planter bags are difficult to recycle and often end up in landfills.

“In the national competition competitors are asked to come up with an innovative new idea, so finding a way to cost-effectively eliminate plastic waste will be my focus.”

NZRA Parks and Open Space Project Manager and event judge Jude Rawcliffe says the competition plays an important role in raising awareness of the importance of the industry and fostering young sector leaders.

“Success in horticulture is about a lot more than just practical knowledge. There are some outstanding young leaders emerging who are passionate about changing the industry for the better.”

The costs of Sarah’s travel and accommodation for the upcoming national Horticulturist of the Year event will be paid by NZRA and event sponsors Farmlands Horticulture, Daltons and Wintec. Her prize also includes a full-year NZRA membership and complimentary registrations for NZRA’s National Conference and Parks Seminar.

Second place prize winner Josh received a full-year NZRA membership and a complimentary registration for NZRA’s Parks Seminar.


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