Waimate grower crowned Central Otago’s young fruit grower

29 May 2017

Ben Geaney from Waimate has emerged victorious against three other entrants to be named Central Otago’s Young Fruit Grower for 2017.

The day-long competition in Cromwell on Friday saw competitors engage in a series of practical challenges designed to test the skills needed to successfully run a thriving horticulture business.

Ben, 29, works on his family’s orchard in Waimate. With a diploma in mechanical engineering, Ben worked in Australia before returning home to work on his family’s apple orchard. He received top marks for pruning; tractors and machinery; and irrigation, which he drew with contestant Adam Low.

Waka Paul, 27, from Parkburn Management in Cromwell was runner up, winning the prize for best speech. Ellen Watt, from Waitaki Orchards in the Waitaki Valley near Kurow, was second runner up.

“The competition has been a great opportunity to test my horticultural and business skills,” said Ben. “I’m excited to represent Waimate fruit growers at the national final in August.”

Ben, together with three other regional Young Fruit Growers and the winner of the recent Young Vegetable Grower competition, will go on to compete for the 2017 Young Grower of the Year title in Christchurch.

The Young Grower of the Year competition is run by Horticulture New Zealand and is now in its 11th year.

HortNZ chief executive, Mike Chapman, said Ben had a bright future ahead of him and exemplified the capability of young people in today’s rapidly growing horticultural industry.

Mr Chapman said the aim of the competition was to foster excellence amongst young growers and future-proof the $5 billion horticultural industry that exports 60% of total production to about 124 countries.

Ben’s prize includes a professional development tour to a growing region of their choice to learn about its horticulture industry, sponsored by the Fruitgrowers’ Charitable Trust, a cash prize of $1,500 and an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the national 2017 Young Grower of the Year title in August.