Sarah Dobson, a 25-year-old environment and sustainability technician at A.S. Wilcox, has won the 2022 Pukekohe Young Grower competition.
The competition tested the four contestant's vegetable and fruit growing knowledge as well as the skills needed to be a successful grower. Contestants completed modules in marketing, compliance, pests and disease identification, safe tractor driving, health and safety, soil and fertilisers, irrigation and quality control.
“I was so rapt when they called my name to say that I had won, I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t expecting to win as it was such a tight competition; all the other competitors were really strong," expressed Sarah.
“I really want to say a huge thanks to the team at A.S. Wilcox. I was quite nervous before the competition, but I did lots of preparation with help from my colleagues. Everyone there has been so supportive in helping me prepare.
“I’ve learnt so much through the competition. I even learnt how to back a tractor-trailer last week which came in handy today! I would encourage anyone thinking of entering to do it, it's been a great experience.”
Sarah said she’s really looking forward to the national Young Grower of the Year competition in Nelson on 21-22 September. She’ll be representing the Pukekohe growing community, competing against six other regional finalists for their share of $30,000 worth of prizes.
HortNZ President, Barry O'Neil, expressed how the competition is a cornerstone event that brings together the Pukekohe growing community even in trying times.
“It has been incredibly tough for Pukekohe and Auckland growers,” he said.
“The various lockdowns and weather events have been unprecedented. Many growers’ businesses are under pressure, so it has been fantastic to be able to get a record turnout at the awards dinner this year and bring everyone together. The turnout shows that Pukekohe growers share a commitment to supporting the next generation of growers, and the future of the industry.
“This year’s event also marks the first fruit grower to enter the Pukekohe competition. Historically, the Pukekohe event has only been for vegetable growers, but this has evolved to include any of the talented young people that work in the horticulture industry in the area.
“Our industry is looking to the future in these very challenging times. Young people will play a key role in our future with our industry’s development and sustainability. To be fit for the future, we must nurture and celebrate this talent, through events like the Young Grower of the Year. Thank you to South Pacific Seeds and Horticentre and all of our event sponsors for your support.”