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Watch NZH Local Focus: Young Fruit Grower aiming for national success

By Jaden McLeod

Whangarei local Hohepa Tatana has only been working as an orchardist for five years.

And that's why he sees himself as something of a dark horse in this year's Young Grower of the Year competition.

"You know, nobody knows who I am. But you know, to me it's not just about coming here and competing, it's about just learning and meeting new people in the industry, so that I can grow my career."

Competitors must try their hand at activities based around everyday horticultural tasks.

"You think you can prepare for this type of competition, but when you get here there's always a curve ball, there's always something that you may have forgotten."

Their results in each task determine the ultimate winner.

The man who taught Mr Tatana all he knows, Patrick Malley, won the competition in 2014.

"I've had a huge amount both professionally and personally that's come out of this competition. Not only the kudos of winning the competition and being able to say that you're the Bay of Plenty Young Grower of the Year, but also just having the knowledge that you've been tested as much as you can in the horticulture industry by real experts gives you a lot of confidence to build on."

This is the first year the competition has teamed up with the Te Puke A&P show to provide a fun day for all the community.

"We used to have quite a bit of input from the horticultural side of things, and for the last few years there hasn't really been much, so this is awesome to get that side of things back on board."

The candidates will find out which of the six of them will progress to the national stage of the competition at a gala dinner on Wednesday.

In Mr Tatana's case, he's just hoping the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

The national stage of the competition will be held in Christchurch on August 16-17.

- NZ Herald

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