Luke St John, Winner Central Otago 2024

27 May 2024

Two entrants from the Fortune Fruit Company near Cromwell took out the top two placings at this year’s Central Otago Young Grower of the Year competition.


Held at Otago Polytechnic Bannockburn campus on Friday May 24, Luke St John won the overall title ahead of workmate Taylor Priest-Johnson at the annual competition, which is open to both commercial fruit and vegetable growers from across the region - up to the age of 30.


Contestants were tested on a range of theoretical and practical modules to determine their horticultural skills and knowledge. Units in competition included irrigation, tractor and machinery, pruning, first aid, pest and disease and ‘a day in the life of an orchard manager.’


An awards gala dinner ended the day's activities with speeches from each contestant and the announcement of the 2024 Central Otago Young Grower of the Year winner.

Luke was a first time entrant and said he was coerced into entering by his peers - he’s now pleased they did. He enjoyed doing all of the tasks and receiving instant feedback from the judges on how he could do things better.


“I wasn’t super keen on this going into it, and was really nervous, but it wasn’t as difficult or as stressful as I thought and it was definitely worth doing. It was such an enjoyable day out.”


Everybody agreed the irrigation unit was most challenging, as it involved a lot of maths and working out the water flow rates.


For Oliver Affleck, another first time contestant from Central Orchard Management Ltd, it was great to meet other young contestants in the industry from across the district.


Oliver won the speech competition for convincing the judges about what he believes are the greatest challenges right now in the industry, as a next generation horticulturalist.


Devon Attfield from Clyde Orchards received third place, and as a second time contestant said the competition was “20 times better” than last year.


“Last year I didn’t know what to expect and this year I actually knew what I was doing.” He particularly loved the tractor driving component.


Luke won $1500 and will now go on to contest the National Young Grower of the Year title in Hawkes Bay on October 9 and 1