We should value our workers, says 2018’s Central Otago Young Fruit Grower

25 May 2018

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Hamish Darling from Moorpark and Mulberry Orchard, Cromwell has been named Central Otago Young Fruit Grower of the Year, following a day of intense competition in Cromwell today. 

The competition saw six of the region’s top young orchardists engage in a series of challenges designed to test the skills needed to successfully run a thriving fruit-growing business. Events included tractor maintenance, pest and disease identification, and first aid. 

Hamish, 21, is a third generation horticulturist who cut his teeth helping set up Moorpark and Mulberry Orchard, just north of Cromwell, in the summer of 2012/13. Hamish spent his weekends and holidays planting trees, fixing pipes, and eventually he and his parents managed to set up the thriving business that it is today. Hamish also won the individual awards for soil and fertiliser, fertigation, and the speech competition.

"I’m really pleased to have won," said Hamish. "With the level of competition here I wasn’t sure if I had a chance, so I’m thrilled.

"I can’t wait for the national event. This is Central Otago’s year!"

Jonathan Bates, a 25 year old foreman for Van der Voort’s in Roxburgh, was runner up, winning the prize for first aid, while Sam Hobbs, a 25 year old orchard manager at Hobbs Family Partnership Orchard, Roxburgh and an operations assistant at Darlings Fruit Ltd, Ettrick came third, and won the pest and diseases module, and jointly won the irrigation event with Hamish Darling.

Hamish, together with three other regional Young Fruit Growers and the two winners of the Young Vegetable Grower competition, will go on to compete for the 2018 Young Grower of the Year title in Napier on 21-22 August. 

Horticulture New Zealand president Julian Raine said that the competition was a shining exhibition of the talent in Central Otago’s growing industry."People are the lifeblood of horticulture, and this event shows exactly why that is," says Raine. "Here we had six outstanding contestants, putting themselves out there to challenge themselves and grow their skills. 

"This is the side of horticulture that we want people to see."

The Central Otago Young Fruit Grower of the Year competition is organised by Grant McKay, regional manager for Horticentre, and facilitated by Horticulture New Zealand. Now in its twelfth year, the competition continues to show the value provided to the fruit growing industry by young people, and aims to encourage more to enter the sector.

"This event is about building on the skillsets of our young people, fostering leadership, and showing how important they are to growing," says Grant. "It truly helps the contestants to grow their careers.""It’s a well deserved win for Hamish, but there was a fantastic effort from all the contestants, and each and every one has a bright future ahead of them."

Hamish’s prize includes a professional development tour to a growing region of their choice to learn about its horticulture industry, sponsored by the New Zealand Fruitgrowers’ Charitable Trust, a cash prize of $1,500, and an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the national title of 2018 Young Grower of the Year in August.