September is a great month as we transition from winter into the warmer months of spring.
Spring is in the air
Despite the continuous wet, the warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours always make you feel more optimistic. Spring and all that it brings gives you a higher step and a smile on everyone’s face. The senses are alive with the smell of freshly mown grass, the sound of bees humming and the emergence of new leaves from dormant trees and freshly planted crops. There is a sense of excitement as to what the new season will bring. It just feels great to be part of the horticultural industry.
Our industry has many great attributes both inside and outside our farm gates. I am privileged to see so many different aspects of it. Last month we held the final for the Young Grower of the Year competition. The final showcases our very best. They are the champions of the horticulture industry. Held in Christchurch over a day and an evening, the regional winners came together to see who had the superior skills and knowledge in our industry. Congratulations to the five contestants - each of you did an excellent job. The competition was tough and hard fought. Well done to Erin Atkinson, of Te Puke, who took out the Young Grower of the Year and Young Fruit Grower of the Year, while Scott Wilcox won the Young Vegetable Grower of the Year. It would be great to be able to use these talented champions by taking them into the schools and communities around the country.
I also enjoy the industry forums. These are like a horticultural family gathering for a common good. Whilst we are at different “ages and stages” they are an opportunity to update everyone about what is happening in each others’ patches and to discuss and tackle common issues. We have three horticulture industry forums a year in February, August and December. The August one coincides with the Young Grower of the Year competition. All product groups and grower associations are invited to these events and most of their chairs and managers attend. It is healthy to report that we don’t always agree on some matters, but we respect each other’s position. I stress that the forums are not a talk fest but add real value for the groups that attend. The information shared and the views formed are beneficial for those that participate. I know some groups report the minutes back to their growers.
Alongside and in addition to the forums a number of the groups come together to work on specific issues. They report back regularly. The Horticultural Capability Group is a good example of this. This group was formed to look at the labour needs of the horticultural industry at all levels. They have formulated a strategy to gather information about the labour needs of our industry over time, identify possible solutions, the resources required and create and implement ways to fill the current gap.
September is also the month for our New Zealand general election. As voting is just about upon us it is only fitting that I comment briefly on it. Unfortunately, the political race for a job for the next three years and whose hand is on the steering wheel, seems to bring the worst out in some people. For the past couple of months we have had the usual stone-turning, delving into the private lives of politicians and those hoping to become one. Unfortunately the media scrum that follows completely misses the important stuff such as the policies the parties will stand behind for the next three years.
Over the last few months Horticulture New Zealand has commented on a number of policies that affect our industry both negatively and positively. We have had our election manifesto out and around all the main parties to get their view on the issues dear to us. You can find their responses on pages 14 –18. Ultimately the New Zealand public will decide who governs the country for the next term. I urge you all to carefully read the policies that parties have formulated before voting on September 23. Election day is an important day in spring to exercise your democratic right, remember we will all be living with the consequences for the next three years. Vote wisely.