Waihopai Valley viticulturist wins Young Horticulturist

by | Feb 24, 2022 | News

For the third consecutive time, a viticulturist has won the Young Horticulturist ((Kaiahuone rangatahi o te tau) competition.

Blenheim’s Rhys Hall, 28, who works in Waihopai Valley as assistant vineyard manager for Indevin, took out the top title after intense competition that ended on Wednesday. Rhys has worked at this company – a leading producer of high-quality NZ wine – for five years, starting as a vineyard worker, then viticulture technician before promoting to his current job two years’ ago. He has a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in plant science from Massey University.

In winning the grand award, Rhys follows in the footsteps of Simon Gourley, and before that, Annabel Bulk. Both those viticulturists were based in Central Otago when announced as competition winners.

At this week’s 2021 final, Danielle McBride was announced second place getter, with Tim Cooper in third place. Danielle, of Mangawhai, was the NZ Plant Producers Industry Young Achiever representative. Tim Cooper, of Dunedin, represented the Young Amenity Horticulture Sector.

Speaking immediately after the winning announcement, an excited Rhys said he was really happy a lot of hard work had paid off. He suspects some of his colleagues will be enjoying a special celebratory bottle of wine tonight.

Rhys’ prize money will help toward a trip to France he has planned for July this year.

“I am taking annual leave to visit vineyards, learn more about the wine, and see how other people are producing around the world. It will be a very educational experience, I am sure. I am so excited,” Rhys said.

His partner is French so the opportunity to visit her homeland and see her family just added to the wonder of the planned trip, he said.

Rhys was full of praise for the competition and event organisers and many supporters.

“The trust is doing an amazing job and I really appreciate that this competition exists for young people to develop them and I hope it inspires other young people to join the horticulture sector,” he says.

Rhys receives not only the winner’s trophy but also a $7,500 Travel, Accommodation or Professional Development package; $1,000 ICL Specialty Fertilisers; One-year membership of The New Zealand Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science; AEG 18V 12″ Brushless Chainsaw; and an AEG 18V 4 Piece Fusion Kit.

In addition to the first, second and third placings the following awards were announced (many of which, Rhys also won):

  • Countdown Innovation Project: Danielle McBride(first), Rhys Hall (second) and Tim Cooper (third)
  • T&G Fresh Practical Components Award. Rhys Hall
  • Fruitfed Supplies Leadership Award. Danielle McBride
  • Bayer Best Practice Award. Rhys Hall
  • Primary ITO Career Development Award. Hayden Parker
  • Horticentre Trust Community Engagement Award. Rhys Hall
  • Countdown Best in Sector Award. Rhys Hall
  • Best Speech Award. Rhys Hall.

All finalists received a $500 Countdown Award for perseverance and commitment to the competition.

The Young Horticulturist Competition remains a rigorous event that attracts impressive young people from the wider horticultural industry, says the competition’s chairperson Hamish Gates.

“The aim of the competition is to encourage young people in horticulture to further develop their skills and knowledge and to increase the opportunities for long term careers in the industry. It identifies tomorrow’s horticultural leaders and is an important event for the primary sectors of NZ,” he says.

The competition has three partnering sponsors – namely: Countdown, Fruitfed Supplies and T&G Fresh.

As second place getter, Danielle wins a $2,500 Massey University study scholarship; $750 ICL Specialty Fertilisers; and one year membership of The New Zealand Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science.

As third place getter, Tim wins $1,000 Cash; $500 ICL Specialty Fertilisers and one-year membership of The New Zealand Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science.

The competition falls under the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture’s Education Trust umbrella.

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