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Horticulturist of Year - Blackcurrant growers

5 December 2002
for immediate release

Blackcurrant growers win Lincoln ‘Horticulturist of Year’ title

Canterbury horticulturists scooped the top three places in the final of the Lincoln University Foundation Horticulturist of the Year Competition today (5 December).

Winners of the Horticulturist of the Year title and a $10,000 overseas travel award were Murray and Marilyn Stephens who with son Stuart operate Waipuna Enterprises at Irwell, south of Christchurch. They won from a field of six finalists.

The Stephens have 64 hectares of a 200-hectare property in blackcurrants and also have blocks in process beans and vining peas. Their mission has been to develop a high return blackcurrant unit in conjunction with a guaranteed low risk medium return enterprise in order to balance the high risk involved with growing a horticultural crop.

With their blackcurrants they pioneered centre bush pruning in New Zealand and to help maximise yields they imported a specialised pruner from Holland two years ago, the only one of its kind in New Zealand.

Given the health benefits of blackcurrants the Stephens say they are in the “health and well being business”.

The Stephens also won the prize for the best public presentation in the final, judged by the audience.

In second place, winning an award of $5000, were Robin and Shirleen Oakley intensive vegetable producers at Halkett and Southbridge who under the umbrella of Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables grow broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkins and potatoes plus some cabbage and brocflower.

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Third, winning a prize of $2000, were David and Deidre Barton of Kaiapoi who produce Telegraph cucumbers year round under 8000 square metres of plastic house. They have their own label “Coolcumber” and also supply Foodstuffs’ “Fresh Express” cucumbers.

Chairman of the judging panel, former Federated Farmers Dominion President Sir Peter Elworthy, described all six finalists as epitomising excellence and tenacity in their enterprises.

“The entrepreneurial activity represented by the finalists gives the lie to the belief in other parts of New Zealand that there is less drive and enterprise in rural and provincial New Zealand.

“The level of ability out on New Zealand’s lands is quite outstanding,” he said.

Steven Redden, Christchurch Finance Manager of competition sponsors Rabobank, said that horticulture was one of New Zealand’s growth industries and had achieved 10 percent annual growth over the past 20 years. He said the six finalists had given “inspirational addresses” and his company was delighted to be associated with the competition.


Ian Collins, Journalist, Lincoln University, Canterbury
Tel: (03) 3252811 ext 8549. Email: collinsi@lincoln.ac.nz

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