Erin breaks new ground

A high school field trip to a large green­house oper­a­tion not only in­tro­duced Erin Atkin­son to the ca­reer she loves – but also set her on the path to be­com­ing the first woman to win the New Zealand Young Grower of the Year ti­tle.

NZ Grower - - Election 2017 - By Elaine Fisher

“My sev­enth form agri-hort teacher at Pukekohe High School, Su­san Stokes, en­cour­aged my in­ter­est in hor­ti­cul­ture and it’s largely thanks to her that I went to Massey Univer­sity to study hor­ti­cul­ture,” says Erin, who won the Young Grower ti­tle from four male en­trants in Au­gust.

Erin, 30-year-old tech­ni­cal ad­vi­sor for Apata Group in Te Puke, has a Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence in Hor­ti­cul­ture and has spent most of her work­ing life in the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try. She is also the third Apata em­ployee to win the Bay of Plenty Young Grower award.

Erin is ex­tremely proud to have been named Young Grower, es­pe­cially as the stan­dard of the other fi­nal­ists was very high.

“It was an ex­tremely chal­leng­ing com­pe­ti­tion but I've re­ally en­joyed meet­ing the other fi­nal­ists. There was a lot of good na­tured ban­ter be­tween us and I now have four new friends in the in­dus­try. That’s an­other ad­van­tage of tak­ing part, the peo­ple you meet, in­clud­ing from dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try.”

Run­ner-up for Young Grower was Scott Wil­cox of Pukekohe, who is also Young Veg­etable Grower 2017, and third place went to Ben Geaney of Wai­mate.

The Young Grower of the Year is an an­nual com­pe­ti­tion to de­ter­mine the best young grower in the coun­try and is run by Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand and spon­sored by the Hor­ti­cen­tre Trust.

The com­pe­ti­tion is now in its 11th year and is part of Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand's strat­egy to sup­port the growth and de­vel­op­ment of New Zealand's fu­ture hor­ti­cul­tural lead­ers.

Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive, Mike Chap­man, says the aim of the com­pe­ti­tion is to fos­ter ex­cel­lence

amongst young grow­ers and fu­ture-proof a $5.6 bil­lion in­dus­try that ex­ports 60% of to­tal pro­duc­tion to 124 coun­tries.

“The Young Grower com­pe­ti­tion is a great way to nur­ture the in­ter­est and pas­sion of younger gen­er­a­tions as well as show­case the in­dus­try. It's a very re­ward­ing in­dus­try to be in and it is so en­cour­ag­ing to see the depth of young tal­ent demon­strated. We look for­ward to see­ing the ca­reer pro­gres­sion of each of these po­ten­tial in­dus­try lead­ers.”

Erin will now go on to com­pete for a share of $40,000 worth of prizes in the Young Hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist of the Year com­pe­ti­tion. Com­peti­tors in the Young Hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist of the Year are drawn from the win­ners of the coun­try’s six hor­ti­cul­tural com­pe­ti­tions:

• Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand (fruit and veg­etable sec­tors)

• New Zealand Plant Pro­duc­ers Inc.

• NZ Wine­grow­ers

• Amenity Hor­ti­cul­ture sup­ported by NZ Recre­ation As­so­ci­a­tion

• NZ Flower Grow­ers Inc. and Florists of NZ Inc. (FLONZI)

• Land­scape In­dus­tries As­so­ci­a­tion of NZ (Land­scap­ing NZ)

◀ Erin Atkin­son, of Te Puke, is the first woman to be New Zealand’s Young Grower the Year.

▴ Scott Wil­cox, of Pukekohe, was run­ner-up in the Young Grower of the Year com­pe­ti­tion. He is the Young Veg­etable Grower of the Year.

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