It was third time lucky for an orchard compliance manager from Kurow who was named the Central Otago Young Fruitgrower of the Year on Friday last week.

Ellen Watt 23, who works on the family's Waitaki Orchards, near Kurow, will represent the region at the national 2019 Young Grower of the Year competition in Tauranga on October 1 and 2.

She and five other contestants: Ian Dwyer 22, and Tim Officer 25, both of Dunstan Hills, Alexandra; Lyssa Jones 24, and Mervyn Van Der Lee, both of M.A. Orchards Ltd, Timaru; and Cam Smith 25, of Springvale Orchard, Alexandra, took part in the event.

Tim Officer was second and Lyssa Jones was third.


South Canterbury and North Otago growers were included in the Central Otago area as the nearest other competition is in Nelson.

Watt said she was "stoked" to win the competition.

"I had entered two times before, in 2016 [unplaced] and 2017 [third place] and thought I would give it a go and see how it went," she said.

"It turned out quite well.

Central Otago Young Fruitgrower of the Year Ellen Watt. Photo / Supplied
Central Otago Young Fruitgrower of the Year Ellen Watt. Photo / Supplied

"I intend to spend a few days looking at my reflection in the trophy then come up with a plan to get ready for the nationals.

Watt co-manages the family packing house with her sister, Geraldine, oversees the spraying programme, and organises compliance audits for Waitaki Orchards, which is owned by her parents, Julie and Justin Watt.

The contestants had earlier spent most of the day completing six modules, which included irrigation and calibration, first aid, pest and disease identification, health and safety, and tractor maintenance at the Otago Polytechnic Central campus at Bannockburn.

They and their supporters attended a formal dinner at The Mooring, Cromwell, in the evening.


Each competitor had to make a speech that outlined what changes they would make should Jacinda Ardern be called away to a 48-hour meeting.

"I said I would implement a rule so that all people to walk on the left and kept left," she said.

She also won prizes for the calibration, speech and first aid modules.

"I then thought maybe I do have a chance [at winning]."

She had learned first aid as part of her Kurow Volunteer Fire Brigade training but had been unsure about the calibration section.

"I managed to get through that as I had a bit of coaching from Dad."

The competition is organised by Grant McKay, regional manager for Horticentre, and facilitated by Horticulture New Zealand.

Now in its 13th year, the competition continues to show the value provided to the fruit-growing industry by young people, and is aimed at encouraging more to enter the sector.

"It's great to see collaboration in the industry, and the support shown tonight has been incredible," McKay said.

"It's been another excellent event."

Prizes had a combined total of $6000 and Watt also gets free registration for the Summerfruit NZ and NZ Apples and Pears conferences, an all-expenses paid trip to Tauranga and a trophy.