The 2022 Young Fruit Grower of the Year day competition held at the Tomoana Showgrounds on 26 May, ran as a standalone event this year, due to the cancellation of the National Horticulture Fieldays earlier in the year.
Contestants were tested on theoretical and practical challenges over eight modules facilitated by competition sponsors Agfirst, Fern Ridge Fresh, PGG Wrightsons, Mr Apple, Norwoods, Tumu Timbers, Farmlands and Irrigation Services. The theoretical and practical modules were designed to exercise the contestants skills and knowledge on pruning, manual handling, health and safety, export market requirements and quality control.
“I learnt a lot from each module, identified skills that I could improve on and challenged myself,” said winner of the competition, Maatu Akonga. “My colleagues and mentors encouraged me to enter the competition and I’m glad I did. It has given me the opportunity to see where I am at in my career and to grow my skills further.”
Maatu says meeting other young growers was the highlight of the competition. “The other contestants were great,” says Maatu. “I’ve built some good friendships and developed industry connections with a range of companies too.”
Thrown in for a bit of light relief during the day (for the contestants!) was the Bostocks Hortisports competition, which this year, had contestants pairing up and undertaking consecutive challenges. The day ended with the popular Hurford Parker Tug of War competition which this year had a record of 13 teams vying for the title.
“The competition is not only about identifying future leaders of the industry but also bringing together our industry,” said Brydon Nisbet President of HBFA.
“It has been an incredibly tough year for the entire sector and is was humbling to see our young horticulturists supported throughout the day by their colleagues and then providing an opportunity for their workmates to have some fun with the Tug of War competition!”.
“The competition simply could not run without the support of all our sponsors- station judges, our Hortisport and Tug of War Sponsors, speech judges, the HBFA executive team and the contestants businesses. Everyone has a critical part to play in the competition- thank you.”
Maatu will go on to represent Hawke’s Bay in the final in September and he is looking forward to the challenge.
And for those that are thinking about entering the competition, Maatu’s advice, “ I would say, step outside your comfort zone – you never know what you can achieve.”