From spade to stage in style
As well as being handy with a spade, mallet, knapsack sprayer and tractor, contestants in the 2017 Bay of Plenty Young Grower of the Year had to calculate formulas, have their bug knowledge scrutinised and polish their personal style to shine on the stage in front of hundreds of guests.
Really – who would not want to put themselves through that?
Six hardy and enterprising souls did put everything on the line when they participated in February – the 12th year of the Bay of Plenty competition. It’s come to be known as the region’s most high-profile and exciting horticultural event. Five contestants represented the Bay of Plenty, while a lone Northland man did his best and flew the flag from his home province. They were:
Erin Atkinson (29) a technical advisor for Apata Group Ltd, Te Puke
Danni van der Heijden (23) an avocado services rep for Trevelyan’s Pack & Cool, Tauranga
• Aaron Wright (26) a regional manager for EastPack,
• Hohepa Tatana (29) a senior assistant orchard
manager for Onyx Horticulture Ltd, Whangarei
Nikesh Gurung (27) a supervisor/assistant manager for Bay Gold Ltd, Te Puke
• Hamish McKain (26) a kiwifruit production and
avocado harvest manager for DMS, Te Puna
The facial expressions of Erin and Danni said it all on the night – they were absolutely thrilled and clearly
taken aback. It was the first time in competition history that women have won both first and second place. As well as a rather attractive trophy, Erin received $1,500 cash and an allexpenses paid trip to compete for the national 2017 Young Grower of the Year title in August.
The first day of competition was set in amongst the hectic organised chaos of the Te Puke A& P Show in Paengaroa.
While show-goers relaxed and basked in brilliant sunshine, the competitors did their utmost to stay cool under pressure and make the most of each short but intense round of activities. Every step of the way, the judges were on hand to measure their every word and action, however, the six were offered helpful information as and when required.There was a definite tension in the air during ‘exam’ time and organisers were busy behind the scenes making sure everyone was where they were meant to be so that the event could unfold without a hitch.
For spectators, probably most exciting for the eye was the avocado seedling planting challenge, run by NZ Avocado.
This held onlookers fascinated as all the careful and necessary steps were taken by each contestant to dig, prepare, plant, water, tie up and create shelter around the young and precious plants.
Driving a tractor is easy, right? Try having a Capital Tractors guy with a clipboard watching your every move and asking questions, and knowing every ‘wrong’ choice is going to count against you. No pressure! No orange safety cones were harmed during this field phase – so I’m told.
Another activity, provided by Farmlands, involved being provided a kit-set beehive. It required transporting the gear via quad bike to be assembled on ‘a new site’ and setting its GPS location. The test continued with participants returning home to formally register the hive and fully complete the allimportant paperwork.
A test with a knap-sack sprayer had the contestants racking the mathematical sectors of their brains to calculate and calibrate equations. Lots of punching the calculator keys and reference material did not make the time go quickly enough, but the judge-instructor, Les Howard from Horticentre Trust was a calming influence and helped each person with equal dignity.
Other theory-based tests involved an orchard profitability quiz (provided by Mayston Partners Ltd) and a biosecurity test run by Kiwifruit Vine Health. Under the shade of the tents, the six were certainly feeling the heat as the paper-based questions ripped into the recesses of their core knowledge.
From top: Hohepa Tatana answering questions Nikesh Guring calculating Aaron Wright, another finalist