Jonathan Bates, a 28-year-old orchard Block Supervisor at Birdhurst Ltd, has won the 2021 Nelson Young Grower competition.
"I’m still in shock - I totally didn’t expect to win,” says Jonathan.
“I love horticulture, and I’ve always seen a future career path for myself in the industry. I really think that there’s an opportunity for everyone in horticulture.
“The big challenge for the industry is to shift the perception of horticulture being just fruit picking – there is so much more than that. I’m really passionate about increasing people’s understanding of horticulture. Anyone can have a rewarding job with career progression in the industry.”
Jonathan will represent the Nelson growing community in the national Young Grower of the Year competition in Wellington on 22-23 September, where six other regional finalists will compete for their share of $30,000 worth of prizes.
HortNZ Chief Executive, Nadine Tunley, says that the competition plays an important role in bringing together the growing community.
“It’s incredibly amazing to see the grower community come together to support the young people in our industry,” says Nadine.
“It’s been really tough for growers in the region with the Boxing Day hail and ongoing labour issues, so the Young Grower competition is a great chance for everyone to come together and celebrate the talented young leaders in the industry.
“The Young Grower competition is all about giving back to the industry and community. Having been involved in the Nelson Young Grower since its inception in 2010, it’s really great to see previous winners back and now running the event.”
HortNZ President, Barry O'Neil, says that the competition was incredibly close, and the contestants will have a bright future in the industry.
“It was a really awesome competition, and all the contestants can be really proud of what they have achieved,” says Barry.
"With the rapid rate of change and challenges facing the industry, we need to support these talented young growers. Competitions like this give young growers invaluable experience to help start their journey as the leaders of tomorrow. People like Jonathan show that the future of the industry is in safe hands," says Barry.
"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 and help us to meet our environmental and climate adaptation goals.
“The Nelson Young Grower competition is made possible with sponsorship from the Horticentre Charitable Trust, NZ Apples & Pears, NZ Fruitgrowers Charitable Trust, ANZ, HortNZ, and the family of supporting sponsors from the Nelson horticulture community.”