Some of the best young horticulturalists in Gisborne took part in the first ever Gisborne Young Fruit Grower of the Year at Kaiaponi Farms – but it was 23-year-old Matt Gomm who claimed the title.
“I’m still a bit shocked I won, to be honest,” says Matt. “The variety of challenges was really interesting, and we all got stuck in and gave it our best.
“The whole competition was great, and I can’t wait to give nationals a go.”
The event put contestants in a series of challenges designed to test their knowledge and skills around topics vital to management of a successful orchard, including fencing, biosecurity, and tractor safety.
They also delivered a speech to a crowd of 110 people, including Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon, on the importance of innovation and technology in fruit growing.
Matt got his start in horticulture five years ago as an orchard hand with Bostocks NZ. He now works as orchard leader at the Burnside Trust.
As winner of the inaugural Gisborne Young Fruit Grower Competition, Matt will progress to the Young Grower of the Year national final in Napier on August 22.
There, he’ll join the winners of the Bay of Plenty, Central Otago, Hawke’s Bay, and Nelson regional fruit grower competitions, plus two Young Vegetable Growers, to contend for the national title of 2018 Young Grower of the Year.
Krista Manuel from Kaiaponi Farms came in second in the Gisborne competition, while Emily Samuel of Thompsons Horticulture placed third.
The competition was organised with the help of Scott Wilson of Kaiaponi Farms and facilitated by Horticulture NZ.
Organisers say the event was unique – in addition to the formal title, an open competition was run for apprentices with no age or experience restrictions, to take part in the modules as well. There were 11 competitors in this open category.
“This is the first time Gisborne has hosted a Young Grower event, and we can certainly see the talent here,” says HortNZ director Barry O’Neil, who attended alongside fellow directors Leon Stallard and Hugh Ritchie.
“Seeing young people like this is so encouraging for our industry; they’re leaders already, and hopefully will take industry leadership roles in the future.
Kaiaponi general manager Scott Wilson the event was a historic event for Gisborne, bringing together its fruit-growing sectors. “We need to highlight and support the young achievers in our industry, and this is how to do it.”
Matt’s prize includes a professional development tour to Hawke’s Bay to learn about horticulture, a trip to the Horticulture Conference in Christchurch, a cash prize of $1500, and an all-expenses paid trip to compete for the national 2018 Young Grower of the Year title this month.