Prac­ti­cal­ity in top place

The 2018 Young Hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist of the Year has al­ways en­joyed the prac­ti­cal side of her work.

The Orchardist - - News - Story and photo by Dianne King

Annabel Bulk from Fel­ton Road Wines in Ban­nock­burn, Cen­tral Otago won the New Zealand Young Hor­ti­cul­tur­ist of the Year ti­tle in a com­pe­ti­tion show­cas­ing the strength and diver­sity of the in­dus­try.

Ear­lier in the year she won the Bayer Young Viti­cul­tur­ist of the Year, rep­re­sent­ing NZ Wine. The other con­tes­tants at the na­tional fi­nals in Auck­land last month were from the Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ, Land­scap­ing NZ, NZ Plant Pro­duc­ers, NZ Flower Grow­ers and NZ Amenity Hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tors. Danni van der Hei­j­den, the win­ner of the Young Grower of the Year ti­tle was placed third and also won the AGMARDT mar­ket in­no­va­tion pro­ject award.

Royal NZ In­sti­tute of Hor­ti­cul­ture Ed­u­ca­tion Trust chair, Elle An­der­son, said the strength and diver­sity of New Zealand’s hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try was ap­par­ent in the strong show­ing from all of the fi­nal­ists.

“Once again I am sim­ply blown away by the cal­i­bre of to­mor­row’s lead­ers we’ve seen on dis­play dur­ing this com­pe­ti­tion,” she said.

“The fu­ture of our in­dus­try is in very good hands.”

Born and raised in Dunedin, Annabel, 30, said her first in­ter­est was in amenity hor­ti­cul­ture through the Otago Polytech­nic, and this back­ground was a bonus at the fi­nal. Al­though one ques­tion miss­ing through­out was about bio-or­gan­ics in which she has clocked up six years’ ex­pe­ri­ence through her work at Fel­ton Road Wines, a bio-dy­namic and or­ganic vine­yard at Ban­nock­burn.

“I’m con­tin­u­ally amazed with the bi­ol­ogy that goes on within plants.”

Af­ter her stud­ies she moved to Marl­bor­ough to widen her in­ter­est in viti­cul­ture, work­ing at Clos Henri, Seresin and Villa Maria. At one stage she had been con­sid­er­ing wine­mak­ing, but her prac­ti­cal strengths and en­joy­ment of the out­doors moved her to fo­cus on vine­yards.

“I’ve al­ways loved the prac­ti­cal side of my work.”

Through the Nel­son-Marl­bor­ough Polytech­nic she worked to­wards a Lin­coln Univer­sity de­gree in viti­cul­ture and oenol­ogy. About six years ago Annabel moved to Fel­ton Road Wines, where she said there was won­der­ful sup­port through all her stud­ies, and in the lead-up to both fi­nals. There were lots of re­ports and in­ter­views with ques­tions over a broad range from soil sci­ence and botany, to biose­cu­rity, fer­tilis­ers and ir­ri­ga­tion.

Tak­ing out the ti­tle saw her re­ceive a $7500 Fruitfed Sup­plies travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion pack­age to a hor­ti­cul­tural des­ti­na­tion of her choice.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to do a vin­tage in Canada and in­ves­ti­gate more about ice wine,” she said.

An­other pri­or­ity is to travel to Ger­many and the “work­shop” of Ste­fan Braun who makes Fel­ton Road’s weed­ing gear. He was at Fel­ton Road a few weeks ago and in­stalled new equip­ment on the vine­yard’s trac­tors, in­clud­ing a state-of-the-art pro­to­type with many elec­tronic ca­pa­bil­i­ties. So he’s in­vited Annabel to his work­shop to give him feed­back on how suc­cess­fully the

gear has worked and if there were any is­sues.

Con­tes­tants had to de­velop a busi­ness plan for a new prod­uct they would like to launch and here Annabel’s prac­ti­cal skills were valu­able as she put to­gether a tool for link­ing ir­ri­ga­tion join­ers. She was for­tu­nate to be able to dis­cuss the mech­a­nisms with her fa­ther, Greg Bulk, an engi­neer at the for­mer Hill­side Work­shops in Dunedin, now owned by an Aus­tralian com­pany, Brad­ken. She was en­cour­aged by the judges to take this pro­ject fur­ther so has plans to do so.

She also re­ceived a $3500 River­sun Nurs­ery schol­ar­ship, $1000 worth of ICL Spe­cialty Fer­tiliser prod­ucts, a mag­a­zine sub­scrip­tion for a year and a se­lec­tion of Ao­rangi Merchant prun­ing tools.

Annabel plans to give back to the in­dus­try and men­tor peo­ple for the lo­cal Young Hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist and Young Viti­cul­tur­ist com­ple­tions.

“These have given me so much I want to give back as much as I can.”

Her big­gest chal­lenge was pub­lic speak­ing; her big­gest gain was con­fi­dence from giv­ing a speech in front of a crowd and also from the in­ter­views.

At Fel­ton Road she helps su­per­vise a vine­yard crew as well as other vine­yard re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­clud­ing spray­ing and trac­tor driv­ing. Her first job on the Mon­day morn­ing af­ter the fi­nal was bud-rub­bing.

“I en­joyed be­ing back in the vine­yard and work­ing with oth­ers that morn­ing,” she said.

In­ter­view over, Annabel re­turned to fin­ish wash­ing down the trac­tor be­fore clock­ing off for the day.

“I’m con­tin­u­ally amazed with the bi­ol­ogy that goes on within plants.”

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