Waimate grower places third in national horticulture competition

Ben Geaney has been awarded third place at the Young Grower of the Year annual awards dinner in Christchurch tonight.

Ben, 29,  who works on his family’s apple orchard in Waimate, won the Central Otago Young Grower competition back May.

After two days of activities in the national competition, where he competed against four other finalists, Ben was placed third to overall winner of Young Grower, Erin Atkinson of Te Puke, the first woman to win the title, and runner-up, Scott Wilcox of Pukekohe.

Ben, who has a Diploma in mechanical engineering, said he was very proud to have received third placing, especially as all of the finalists were skilled and talented and the competition was a real challenge.

“I’ve certainly learned a lot through this whole process and can now apply this new knowledge to my job and future career. It has been a great experience.”

The Young Grower of the Year competition is in its 11th year and is run by Horticulture New Zealand and sponsored by the Horticentre Trust.

During the competition, all five finalists competed in a series of practical and theoretical challenges designed to test the skills needed to run a successful export-focused horticultural business. They also took part in a leadership panel discussion before delivering a speech in front of the judges at the awards dinner event.

Judges looked for individuals who can make a difference in their sectors and the industry, going beyond great skills to also include leadership, attitude and personality.

Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Chapman, said the aim of the competition was to foster excellence amongst young growers and future-proof a $5.6 billion industry that exports 60% of total production to about 124 countries.

“The Young Grower competition is a great way to nurture the interest and passion of the 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 this week. We look forward to seeing the career progression of each of these potential industry leaders.”

The 2017 placings were:

  • Young Grower, Young Fruit Grower, Countdown Best Business title, SPS Best Innovation title and Fruitfed Supplies Best Speech title – Erin Atkinson of Te Puke
  • Runner-up, Ballance Best Practical title and New Zealand Young Vegetable Grower 2017 – Scott Wilcox, Pukekohe
  • Third place winner and Central Otago Young Fruit Grower 2017 – Ben Geaney, Waimate
  • Winner of the Ballance Leadership Panel / Outstanding Leadership Award and Nelson Young Fruit Grower 2017 – Ralph Bastian, Appleby

Hawke’s Bay Young Fruit Grower 2016 and 2017 – Jordon James, Whakatu

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