It is estimated the industry will need another 2,000 permanent employees and 4,000 seasonal employees within the next few years. This future growth is dependent on the ability to attract and retain young people who are highly skilled and enthusiastic and develop them to become our industry’s future leaders.

Bay Of Plenty Young Grower Competition

Bryce Morrison, a Grower Services Representative for Seeka, has been named Bay of Plenty’s Young Grower of the Year for 2021.

The 2021 competition took place on 22 July at the Mount Maunganui College grounds, where eight competitors tested their horticultural skills and knowledge in a series of challenges. The day’s activities were followed by a speech competition at a gala dinner, where each contestant spoke on the important lessons learned from Covid-19 and how they could be implemented for future years.

Bryce excelled in individual challenges, and impressed judges with his speech. Emily Woods, from Apata, placed second, and Quintin Swanepoel, from Southern Cross Horticulture, placed third.

Erin Atkinson, chair of Bay of Plenty (BOP) Young Growers, says that the calibre of this years’ contestants has made the 2021 event special.

“The contestants of this year’s BOP Young Grower competition have shown great potential for strong careers in the horticulture industry,” says Erin.

“The competition is the perfect environment to put their knowledge on display and it’s reassuring that we have such young talent coming through our industry.”

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. Chief Executive, Colin Bond, says that the Young Grower competitions are important to highlight the skills and careers associated with the horticulture industry.

“Horticulture is undergoing rapid change in areas such as regulation and the make-up of the labour force,” Colin says.

“It is critical that we have skilled talent with careers in the industry to lead a pathway forward. The 2021 BOP Young Grower competition is an illustration of not only the careers available but that some of our young and upcoming people will hold the industry in good stead.”

Bryce will travel to Wellington to compete against other regional finalists at the national Young Grower of the Year on 22 September.

National Young Grower Competition

In 2020, Young Grower Competitions across the country were disrupted by Covid-19. The Bay of Plenty was the only region to successfully complete their competition, held in February, won by Melissa van den Heuvel. Melissa was invited to attend the 2021 National Competition, alongside the 2021 BOPYG competition winner Bryce Morrison.

Covid continued to interrupt plans. The national final was postponed from September to October. Bryce and Melissa eventually competed in Wellington along with 4 other regional winners (the Pukekohe winner Heather Feetham was unable to attend with her region in lockdown at that time). Melissa van den Heuval was named the overall Young Grower of the Year for 2021. Melissa is an Avocado Grower Services Representative for Apata Group.

“I am very proud to be in this industry. It is something I am very passionate about. What we produce is very top notch,” says Melissa.

Barry O’Neil, president of HortNZ, said supporting young people and encouraging more of them to join the industry is critical to the industry’s continued success and growth, in what is the new normal – life affected by Covid.

“At times like these, having a cause and taking time out to celebrate it is even more important than it was before,” said O’Neil.

“This year’s regional finals were oversubscribed, which shows the inherent optimism in our industry as well as the pride inherent in providing New Zealand and the world with tasty and healthy fruit and vegetables.”

The 2022 competition will take place on Wednesday the 20th July. If you would like to take part in the 2022 event as a competitor or a sponsor, you can email Di Holloway or contact NZKGI on 075747139.