Jacob Coombridge, a 22-year-old Orchard Supervisor at Webb’s Fruit, has won the 2022 Central Otago Young Grower competition.
The competition tested the eight contestant's fruit and vegetable growing knowledge as well as the skills needed to be a successful grower. Contestants completed modules in irrigation, pests and disease identification, safe tractor operating, first aid, soil and fertilisers and risk management.
“It’s so awesome to have so many people from the industry along to support us,” says Jacob.
“Like all farming, working on an orchard can be isolating at times, but it’s awesome that competitions like this are able to bring everyone together. We’ve got a great grower community, and everyone has been really supportive of all of us as contestants.
“My employers Simon and Trudi Webb have been especially supportive of me entering the competition. What inspires me to pursue a career in horticulture is people like Simon and Trudi who set such a great example through their service to the industry.
“The competition has been such a big thing to work towards so it’s great to take home the win. I feel like I now have an awesome opportunity to represent the industry that I love.”
Jacob says he’s really looking forward to the national Young Grower of the Year competition in Nelson on 21-22 September. He will be representing the Central Otago growing community, competing against six other regional finalists for their share of $30,000 worth of prizes.
HortNZ Vice-President and Director, Bernadine Guilleux, says that the competition is essential for supporting the next generation of talent in the industry.
“The Young Grower of the Year competition brings together the whole industry, but the most important people are our young people. They are our upcoming leaders and are essential to the future of horticulture.
"It's great to see so much support from the industry for these eight Young Growers. We've got people from all over Central Otago here tonight, and everyone's here to support these contestants.
"The horticulture industry has a lot to offer. It's a rewarding career for those who want to help feed New Zealand and the world healthy food. Growing fruit and vegetables has been identified as a key way for the country to meet environmental and climate adaptation goals.
"The competition showcases some of the industry's top talent. It is a chance for us all to celebrate their success and support the industry's rising talent. Thank you to Horticentre and Summerfruit New Zealand, as well as all of our other event sponsors, for their support."