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.
“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.