Grace Fulford, Winner Hawkes Bay 2024

20 June 2024

T&G’s Grace Fulford wins Hawke’s Bay Young Grower of the Year 

Hawke’s Bay native Grace Fulford, T&Gs Quality and Compliance manager, bet seven other competitors on Friday to take home the Hawke’s Bay Young Grower of the Year award. From a family of orchardists, Grace has been on orchards and packhouses most of her life.

It’s the fifth year in a row that a T&G entrant has taken home the top prize. Runners up were  Leander Archer of Sunfruit in second place and Jesse Wall from Mr Apple in third place. 

The two day competition takes the rising stars of Hawke’s Bay horticulture and put’s them to the test in a range of industry specific challenges - from machinery to irrigation, from health and safety to managing orchard understory - as well as a panel discussion and speeches.  


The competition provides the young growers with the chance to prove their technical skills and grow in confidence through public speaking.  

 “I thought I had a good chance of winning but you never really know. I’m stoked, absolutely thrilled,” Grace said. 

 “I grew up in horticulture on my family’s orchards, and started my career there a year after I left school. I learned heaps from my two uncles and dad, who taught me the basics of what I needed to know and a whole lot more.”  

 This was the 19th year the Hawke’s Bay Fruit Growers Association has held the event, which is one of six regional competitions that pave a way to the finals later in the year. Young Growers from Pukekohe, Gisborne, Bay of Plenty, Nelson, Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago compete for the grand title at the National Young Grower of the Year final in October. 


The winner of the National Young Grower of the Year then has the opportunity to compete at the Young Horticulturist of the Year, run by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture Education Trust. 

 “It was such a great group of contestants, I think the level of competition was really high. Some of us are a bit more competitive than others. We all gave it a really good shot but there were a few of us that really wanted to win it,” Grace said. 

 “We had eight stations on the Thursday, with 25 minutes at each station being put to the test on heaps of things. On Friday we had a leadership panel and we all spoke on the same topic and we were judged on how we spoke and answered questions. The topic was ‘What’s in it for us’. Then we had a speech at the dinner. My speech was ‘Will building a sustainable workforce impact our environment?’”. 

 In his opening address on awards night, President of Hawke’s Bay Fruit Growers, Brydon Nisbet, thanked all those who had made the event such a success for their hard work behind the scenes. 

 “This year’s competition boasted eight outstanding individuals from six different companies … To me the courage and determination shown by these young leaders reflects the resilience, strength and depth of our industry.  

 “I am confident that with people like this coming up we will come out of the wake of last year’s cyclone with the stability to have an industry that will grow stronger, bigger and smarter and have a more prosperous future,” he said. 

 “Entering the Young Grower competition means your stretching yourself out beyond your comfort zone and competing against each other to become the very best you can - that’s leadership.”