Young Grower of the Year

The Orchardist - - >>contents -

Less than three years after join­ing his fam­ily's or­chard business he has won the 2014 Young Grower of the Year com­pe­ti­tion, beat­ing other top pro­fes­sional fruit and veg­etable grow­ers from around New Zealand. Pa­trick is the first grower from North­land to win the award.

Pa­trick and his wife Re­becca were also ear­lier this year recog­nised for adopt­ing a raft of in­no­va­tions across their fam­ily ki­wifruit and av­o­cado or­chard at Maun­gat­a­pere, near Whangarei. The or­chard is run in con­junc­tion with Pa­trick's par­ents Der­mott and Linzi, pre­vi­ously Hawke's Bay ap­ple grow­ers.

As North­land doesn't have a re­gional com­pe­ti­tion of its own, Pa­trick, aged 30, ear­lier won the Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower ti­tle to se­cure his place in the com­pe­ti­tion. “I was grate­ful for the support from Bay of Plenty. I never felt that I was an out­sider.” As he had only joined his fam­ily business in 2012, he had done a lot of prepa­ra­tion ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion, with tasks such as driv­ing a tele­han­dler and build­ing a wooden squash crate, new to him.

Nor­mally held in con­junc­tion with the Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand an­nual con­fer­ence, it was the first time the Young Grower of the Year was run as a stand-alone event, in Christchurch.

Run­ner-up was Nel­son Young Fruit Grower Steve Thomas, 26. Steve is a ki­wifruit and cool­store man­ager for Thomas Bros. in Ri­waka where he has been work­ing full-time in the fam­ily op­er­a­tion for seven years and is re­spon­si­ble for the gold ki­wifruit cul­ti­vars.

OTHER FI­NAL­ISTS WERE:

Hawke's Bay Young Fruit Grower, Graeme Hodges, 30. Graeme is or­chard man­ager for Ruther­glen Or­chard, Have­lock North, re­spon­si­ble for the day-to-day run­ning of the or­chard and staff man­age­ment.

North­land orchardist Pa­trick Mal­ley, pic­tured, has made a big im­pact in a short time since tak­ing on a full-time role in the hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­try.

New Zealand Young Veg­etable Grower, Brett Parker, 26. Brett is as­sis­tant crop man­ager for Hinemoa Qual­ity Pro­duc­ers in Franklin. Brett has worked for Chris and Vicki Nicholson for two years man­ag­ing crop spray­ing and op­er­a­tions and ground prepa­ra­tion.

Chal­lenges ranged from a bud­get­ing ex­er­cise on or­chard prof­itabil­ity, to an ir­ri­ga­tion test and assem­bly of a squash crate. Com­peti­tors also had to par­tic­i­pate in a lead­er­ship panel dis­cussing the role of as­so­ciate direc­tors of grower boards to the in­dus­try and present a three-minute speech on “What makes the best grower?” to guests at the awards din­ner. Prac­ti­cal tasks were car­ried out in La­timer Square in cen­tral Christchurch, pro­vid­ing a pub­lic venue and in­ter­est for pass­ing mo­torists.

As the 2014 Young Grower of the Year, Pa­trick won $2,000 cash and will go on to com­pete at the Young Hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist of the Year com­pe­ti­tion in Novem­ber against land­scap­ing, flower grower, nurs­ery and gar­den and wine­grower sec­tors. On win­ning, Pa­trick thanked Michelle de Jong and Sue Pick­er­ing of Hort NZ, who were “like fairy god­moth­ers” dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion.

His fam­ily's North­land or­chard is mainly ki­wifruit, the majority be­ing Hort16A Gold and the bal­ance split be­tween Hay­ward Green, G3 Gold, G14 Green and a Zespri trial. New male cul­ti­vars have been in­tro­duced to the canopy to im­prove pol­li­na­tion and the pro­duc­tive area of Hort16A ex­tended 8% by in­stal­la­tion of new end as­sem­blies.

The 2.5ha of Hass av­o­ca­dos are older trees which have been heav­ily pruned to bring them down to man­age­able size and to get more light into the canopy. The fam­ily plans to re­place the av­o­ca­dos with more ki­wifruit over time.

Pa­trick has adopted an in­no­va­tive ap­proach to staffing by con­tract­ing out staff to other hor­ti­cul­tural busi­nesses when work is quiet at the or­chard, to pro­vide year-round em­ploy­ment. “We felt we needed to con­trol labour on our or­chard, but don't have enough work to em­ploy peo­ple full­time on our prop­erty. We now have 26 staff that we em­ploy full-time on our own and other or­chards.”

Their level of in­no­va­tion across the whole or­chard was recog­nised when Pa­trick and Re­becca were fi­nal­ists in the 2014 North­land Bal­lance Farm En­vi­ron­ment Awards.

Out­side of work Pa­trick is a mem­ber of North­land Search and Res­cue. He also en­joys car ral­ly­ing. “Mum co-drives for me, but my par­ents are go­ing on the next rally to­gether

with­out me, as Re­becca and I are ex­pect­ing our first baby on Septem­ber 4.”

Pa­trick has a de­gree in com­merce and Re­becca in vet­eri­nary sci­ence and both have since grad­u­ated at level 4, pro­duc­tion man­age­ment in hor­ti­cul­ture. “I started a hor­ti­cul­ture de­gree at Massey Univer­sity, then de­cided I wasn't go­ing to do that for the rest of my life and switched to business. Lo and be­hold, I'm now a hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist and loving it.”

Pa­trick was proud to be the sec­ond North­lander to put the re­gion on the map this year, along with David Kidd, the first North­land grand fi­nal­ist to win the Young Farmer of the Year. “I will be en­cour­ag­ing other North­land grow­ers to en­ter the com­pe­ti­tion and go as far as I did.”

2013 Young Grower of the Year Ben James said he was un­suc­cess­ful in 2012, but de­cided to try again the fol­low­ing year. “Once again, I found stiff com­pe­ti­tion among my com­peti­tors, but hav­ing ex­pe­ri­ence from the pre­vi­ous year al­lowed me to re­lax and en­joy it more and I won both awards.”

He has since ad­vanced in his ca­reer to qual­ity man­ager for the Have­lock North Fruit Company which grows the spe­cially-pack­aged small Rockit ap­ple va­ri­ety. “The new and ex­cit­ing ap­ple va­ri­ety has a new pack­ag­ing and mar­ket­ing strat­egy, cou­pled with young or­chards and a moun­tain of new chal­lenges.

“For some, change is daunt­ing. Get­ting out of your com­fort zone is not some­thing we like to do. How­ever, this is how I have man­aged to cre­ate my suc­cess in our in­dus­try. Get­ting out of my com­fort zone and try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent, cou­pled with de­ter­mi­na­tion, hon­esty and hard work, it does pay off.

“Also through this jour­ney I have met some fan­tas­tic, sup­port­ive and like-minded peo­ple – hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ists.

“To this year's con­tes­tants – the ride you are on is mas­sive, seize your op­por­tu­ni­ties and make the most of it,” said Ben.

The only low point was one of the tro­phies get­ting bro­ken in check-in lug­gage as Ben flew from Hawke's Bay to Christchurch for this year's awards. Bro­ken into five pieces, it was fixed with su­per­glue be­fore that evening's pre­sen­ta­tion. His ad­vice to fu­ture win­ners: “Look after the tro­phies, they are fairly frag­ile.”

2014 YOUNG GROWER OF THE YEAR AC­TIV­ITY AWARDS:

Hor­tisports, Brett Parker 1, Graeme Hodges, 2.

Best prac­ti­cal award, Brett Parker and Graeme Hodges 1 equal, Steve Thomas 2.

Best business award, Pa­trick Mal­ley 1, Steve Thomas 2.

Best speech, Pa­trick Mal­ley 1, Steve Thomas 2.

Best in­no­va­tion con­cept, Pa­trick Mal­ley 1, Graeme Hodges 2.

Out­stand­ing lead­er­ship award, Pa­trick Mal­ley 1, Steve

By Heather Chalmers, Pho­tos Ivor Earp-Jones

Her­man van der Gu­lik, from Enza Zaden, makes a brief ewe turn in Christchurch. Enza Zaden is a gold spon­sor of the Young Grower of the Year com­pe­ti­tion, and Her­man goes above and beyond the call of duty to support the event. Photo Ivor Earp-Jones.

Thomas 2.

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