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Horticulture’s future may lay with city slickers

26 May 2015

Horticulture’s future may lay with city slickers

Increasing urbanisation means more support for initiatives like the ‘NZ Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015 Competition’ is needed to encourage fresh talent into primary industries, like horticulture, to sustain this country’s edge as a top quality food producer.

The horticultural industry has a bright future and is fundamentally important to New Zealand's economy, but the fact that more than 85 per cent of kids under 15* now live in urban areas is prompting some of the country’s top companies to throw their weight behind career awareness and development initiatives in the sector.

One of these developments is the ‘NZ Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015 Competition’ (YHOY). Having launched in April, this year’s YHOY competition will include horticultural employees from every corner of New Zealand who will compete in six sector competitions to qualify as a finalist to represent their sector in the RNZIH Education Trust’s ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015 Competition’.

Fruitfed Supplies is a major sponsor of this year’s contest and national manager, Max Spence, said today that in the past horticulture has traditionally been a family enterprise, but a large proportion of the next generation are not necessarily interested in continuing.

“Horticulture nowadays, as the ‘NZ Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015 competition/ demonstrates, requires high levels of education in science, chemistry, supply chain management, IT and marketing. It’s not families and gumboots anymore, and for that reason it is extremely important that we attract young people into the industry,” he said.

Kylie Horomia, Communications Manager at T&G (Turners and Growers), also a sponsor of the competition, said the fact that the overwhelming majority of New Zealand’s kids live in cities like Auckland is not a healthy situation for horticulture, because their awareness of career opportunities is low compared to rural children.

“We need to be talking to city kids now and getting them on the ‘horti pathway’ because by the time they reach years 11, 12 and 13 it’s almost too late. They've made their subject choices.

“While horticultural focussed career days in centres like Nelson and Keri Keri are important, the kids in rural areas already understand the industry and the opportunities in horticulture. A lot of them will go to the cities, so we need the cities to give back so we can secure a long-term future for all of us.

“We believe events like the ‘NZ Young Horticulturist of the Year 2015 competition’ is critical for awareness because it shows horticulture in action, and the high calibre of people who are needed to make this business work for New Zealand,” she said.

AGMARDT general manager, Malcolm Nitschke, says there are significant career opportunities in horticulture which is not only one of New Zealand’s fastest growing sectors – and most profitable agricultural activity per hectare – but also increasingly sophisticated in terms of IT and digital technology, and machinery.

“The current participants in the competition are potential future leaders of their sectors and are therefore role models to attract young people into the industry. But it’s important we attract the right people who are the best and brightest. The challenge is enormous because, unfortunately, many young people in the cities don't really understand where our food comes from,” he said.

This year’s competition finalists will be drawn from the winners of six horticultural sector competitions:

• Horticulture NZ (fruit and vegetable sectors)
• Nursery and Garden Industry of new Zealand
• NZ Winegrowers
• menity Horticulture supported by NZ Recreation Association
• Floriculture: Floristry NZ Inc. and NZ Flower Growers Inc.
• Landscaping New Zealand

Finalists (30 years and under) compete for a prize pool of over $40,000 that includes a $7,500 travel and accommodation package and a $5,500 Massey University study scholarship and travel.

The Young Horticulturist of the Year competition is made possible through the generous support of: Young Horticulturist of the Year Partners Fruitfed Supplies, AGMARDT and T&G.
Young Horticulturist of the Year Supporters Bayer CropScience, Massey University, Primary ITO, Countdown, NZ Gardener Magazine and Trillian Trust.

ends

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