Sun shines on Gisborne Young Growers

24 July 2023

This year’s Gisborne Young Grower of the Year regional final took place on a fine, sunny day, which put smiles on the faces of contestants, their whānau, sponsors and spectators.

‘I ordered the sun and it turned up on the right day,’ said grower and Gisborne Young Grower organiser, Nat Egan.

‘It’s wonderful to have a regional final in Gisborne, particularly given the season we’ve just had. The competition is an opportunity to celebrate our young people, and their skills and commitment.’

This sentiment was shared by event sponsor, BASF.

‘We like to support events that encourage young people to come through the industry. We need to develop the next generation, as we need them to take over from us,’ said BASF senior technical services specialist, Tim Herman.

‘Ours is an exciting industry to be in, despite the ups and downs. It’s always changing and that creates opportunities for all sorts of different young people.’

Contestant Bree Martinac, an orchard manager at Tatau Tatau in Wairoa, said she entered the competition because she felt a bit isolated where she is based.

‘I wanted to meet other young people. I’ve enjoyed the practical side of the competition the most. It’s also a way to let off steam in what’s been a challenging season.

‘At Tatau Tatau, we run a cadetship so I will lead the way by encouraging others to enter next year.’

Awatea Jobe, an orchard hand at Coxco, had only been in the industry for a year. ‘I started in the packhouse but found I liked being outdoors better. I was nervous at the start of the competition but ended up loving it.

‘I’m keen to learn – that’s why I entered – as I want to be an orchard manager when I’m ready.’

Jess Cranswick, New Zealand Apples and Pears acting chief executive, said events like the Young Grower of the Year create alliances that can last a career.

‘These events create opportunities for young people to get together and develop networks. This is important when most growing operations are small, which can lead to feeling isolated.

‘Contestants can use these networks for support and to run ideas by – ideas they might not feel comfortable testing with older people.’

Kate Trufitt, retiring HortNZ board member, said the Young Grower provides regional finalists with the opportunity to benchmark with their peers from across the country.

‘Different regions grow different crops, so finalists get the opportunity to learn from each other. The competition also builds relationships and skills – skills for day jobs as well as leadership skills for future roles in the industry.’

And the winner was:
Emily Samuel, an apple and kiwifruit manager for Thompson’s Horticulture, won the Gisborne Young Grower of the Year for 2023, in what was a very keenly fought competition.

‘Hard work does pay off,’ said Emily, reflecting on the fact that this was her third competition. ‘I’m a little bit competitive. This event is a chance to build confidence as well as networks. It’s also fun and gets you to try something new.’

Emily will join five other regional finalists in Pukekohe in early October for the opportunity to win the Young Grower of the Year national title for 2023.