Dillon Peterson of Hoddys Fruit Co has prevailed against five other entrants to be named Nelson Young Fruit Grower 2018 at an event in Richmond on Friday night.
The day-long competition took place at Hoddys Fruit Co, and saw the contestants demonstrating their knowledge and skills in a series of practical and theoretical challenges key to running a successful orchard business.
Dillon, 22, was the youngest in this year's competition, and works for Hoddys Fruit Co on the Waimea Plains. In the five years he has been at Hoddys he has been closely involved in harvest, where he drives a tractor in a picking crew, and does plenty of pruning, planting and irrigation checking. Dillon never intended to stay in horticulture, but a seasonal job has turned into a career that he thoroughly enjoys.
"It was definitely daunting, but a great experience," says Dillon. "I'm looking forward to nationals, and am hopeful about bringing the title to Nelson."
Jordon Mister, of Tyrella Orchards, was the first runner up. Jaime Cole of T&G Global came in third.
The speech competition at the Headingly Centre on Friday night had contestants imagining themselves as Prime Minister. Dillon spoke about investing in people and the need for biocontrols of pests to a gathering of 230 people, the largest crowd the Nelson competition has ever attracted.
Dillon, alongside four other regional Young Fruit Growers from Central Otago, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, and Hawke's Bay, and well as two Young Vegetable Grower winners, will go on to compete for the 2018 Young Grower of the Year title in the Napier Convention Centre this 21-22 August.
The Nelson Young Fruit Grower competition is organised by Andrew Kininmonth of Hoddy's Orchard, who was understandably thrilled with the result.
"I'm extremely proud of Dillon, he's been putting in the yards and the effort to get himself here," says Andrew. "I wish him well for nationals; Hoddys and Nelson are both behind him the whole way."
Julian Raine, president of Horticulture New Zealand, agrees on the importance of showcasing young people in the industry.
"I'm a Nelson grower myself, and seeing young people like this is so encouraging for our industry and our region," says Julian. "Horticulture values our people, so we invest in them now, for the sake of the future.
"This fresh crop will definitely go far, and it's certainly a deserved win for Dillon."
Dillon's prize includes a professional development tour to Hawke's Bay to learn about their horticulture industry, a trip to the Horticulture Conference in Christchurch later this month, a cash prize of $1,500, and an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the national 2018 Young Grower of the Year title in Napier this August.