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.

2022 Bay of Plenty Young Grower Competition

Laura Schultz, an Avocado Grower Liaison for Trevelyan’s, has been named Bay of Plenty’s Young Grower of the Year for 2022.

The 2022 competition took place on 20 July at the Mount Maunganui College grounds, where eight competitors tested their skills and ability to run a successful horticultural business in a series of challenges. These were followed by a speech competition titled “What I’ll be growing in 2050” at a gala dinner in the evening.

Laura excelled in the individual challenges, and impressed judges with her speech on providing the best quality produce by adapting to climate change to grow crops that met the changing environment. Yanika Reiter, from KVH, came in second place, and Emily Woods, from Apata, placed third.

Erin Atkinson, chair of Bay of Plenty (BOP) Young Growers, says that this years’ contestants were outstanding.

“This years’ BOP Young Grower contestants have shown the great talent we already have within our horticulture industry. The competition has been perfect to test their knowledge and I hope that it sets the bar for other young talent coming through our industry” says Erin.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. Chief Executive, Colin Bond agrees, and says that these competitions show appreciation for the need for skilled careers in the horticulture industry.

“As a horticulture industry, we can often focus on knee-jerk reactions required for the current season. But in order to continue to produce effectively into the future, we need to ensure we have young people with the right commercial, technical and scientific skills. The 2022 BOP Young Grower competition is a great way to celebrate the high caliber of people coming through the industry to make us future fit”

Laura’s prize includes an all-expenses paid trip to Nelson to compete for the title of National Young Grower of the Year 2022, in September, as well as $1,500 cash.

2022 Bay of Plenty Young Grower of the Year winners: Yanika Reiter (second place), Laura Schultz (winner) and Emily Woods (third place).

National Young Grower Competition 2021

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 2023 competition will take place in July. If you would like to take part in the event as a competitor or a sponsor, you can email Gavin Stagg or contact NZKGI on 075747139.