Introducing the 2014 Finalists

Sarah Fenwick

Green gene tested ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year‘ finalist.

Sarah Fenwick’s grandmother is responsible for the green gene that’s led this 30 year old finalist into the garden. First through WINTEC then M.I.T in the North Island. Sarah is now settled in Dunedin where she, along with ten others make up Delta’s dedicated amenity gardening team. Her success in winning the Amenity Young Horticulturist of the Year now places her as one of the six finalists for the 2014 Young Horticulturist of the Year.

Sarah had heard of the competition and did some voluntary work experience with a finalist at the Hamilton Public Gardens during her National Certificate in Horticulture, however it was a past tutor from M.I.T’s School of Horticulture who encouraged her to enter this year.

Sarah works in the green space division at Delta, a large infrastructure company in Dunedin.  Along with the ten other amenity gardeners she is responsible for all council amenity gardens, hedges, feature trees, beach front vegetation, re-vegetation sites, recreation parks and reserves. “Dunedin has beautiful public spaces; well thought out and full of interesting collections,” says Sarah. “The town belt, peninsular and coast line along side historical architecture makes for a very aesthetically pleasing work environment.”

Sarah’s working on time management and improving her confidence levels as she prepares for the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition. She is taking on small chunks at a time as she lifts her skill levels, and continues her networking through her industry.

If she wins the competition Sarah’s first call will be to her grandmother, who brought the ‘green thumb gene’ to the family. Furthering her management and business skills through the Otago Polytechnic Business School is part of Sarah’s career plan as well as introducing sustainable changes to the industry.  She believes that Dunedin can lead New Zealand in sustainable practices within the Amenity industry.

Sarah has the support of her managers at Delta, as well as her partner, Mitch.  “I’ll be the first to admit I am easily distracted, I am a gardener and will find any excuse to get into the garden,” she explains. “Mitch has taken on the role of time management guru and reminds me that he’s watching to ensure I’m working on competition prep and not sneaking outside to the garden.”

In her precious spare time, Sarah enjoys developing her own amenity garden, maintaining the veg patch and working with the local community garden. “Nature and getting in amongst it is good for the soul”.

Jacqui Jones

‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ finalist set to follow winning footsteps.

‘Nursery and Garden’ competition winner Jacqui Jones’ interest in the event was supported by her manager at Invercargill’s Evandale Gardens as a good networking and career development opportunity.

“I enjoyed the whole thing, despite some nerves when it came to the speech section,” says Jacqui. Winning ‘Nursery and Garden’s Hort Fert Young Achiever’ competition has also placed her as a finalist in the 10th annual ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ competition. Jacqui has met Kelly Jean Kerr, the 2013 Hort Fert Young Achiever winner, and winner of the 2013 ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’.  This finalist is eagar to follow in Kelly Jean’s footsteps, and win this year’s ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ competition.

Now in Sales and Marketing, Jacqui began her career working in Evandale’s rose department. “I loved working with perennials the most, but long term I was working towards a career in sales and marketing,” she explains.

Jacqui is qualified with Level 4 Advanced Nursery Production and Level 4 Advanced Production Horticulture. She has recently become an accredited work place assessor so she can mentor and assist other staff working towards horticultural qualifications. With her eyes set on upper management in the industry Jacqui plans to complete her National Diploma in Agribusiness Management through Primary ITO.

Jacqui sees the AGMARDT  Innovation Project as the most challenging aspect of the competition, and is developing her project ideas. She is also preparing for the Grand Final activities in November.  “I’m figuring out areas of weakness and putting a plan into place to make sure I’ve got all bases covered,” she says. Kelly Jean has already provided some welcome mentoring.

Jacqui says that to win ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ would have a life changing effect on her career.  “I’d love to follow in Kelly Jean’s footsteps and experience the Chelsea Flower Show as well as all the other wonderful horticultural delights that England has to offer.  The sky is the limit if I was to win, I would definitely like to expand my knowledge in overseas trends and developments so that I can share with and inspire my team at work,” says Jacqui.

Jacqui and her husband live on ten acres just outside of town, which they share with horses, cows and chickens. When she’s not working you’ll find Jacqui riding motorcross on weekends, or sledding and racing in the snow with her own team of huskies.

She believes that personal satisfaction and pride in what you do is vital to a happy, healthy lifestyle. “My husband is a fantastic source of motivation, and we work as a team to achieve our goals.”

Patrick Malley

‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ finalist driving horticulture awareness.

A former NZ national rally champion has his sights set on success in the ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ competition.

Having already won the Horticulture NZ ‘Young Grower of the Year’, 30 year old Patrick Malley is now lining up as a finalist in the 2014 ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ competition.

“After scraping through in a tie breaker against some tough Bay of Plenty competitors in the  regional of the ‘Young Grower of the Year’ competition, I realised that in addition to competing for myself, I could help raise awareness of horticulture in the Northland region,” he explains.

Patrick co-owns a kiwifruit and avocado orchard in Northland. He says that he loves horticulture because no week is ever the same. One day may see him managing avocado crews picking for the export market, the next working on a kiwifruit structure conversion, as well as helping his staff in their development.

He’s preparing himself for the challenging questions and tasks that are integral to the ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ experience. Patrick says that if you do manage to win the competition you know that you achieved it against the best competitors in New Zealand and against some very difficult challenges.

Patrick’s goal is, naturally, to win, however he is committed to retaining a supportive, fun environment because “we will all end up representing our industry into the future and we will all hopefully get a chance to work together in the future.”

He also hopes that he will be able to encourage more young people into the horticulture industry and show them that there is a bright future for them beyond seasonal employment.

He’s enjoying support from the Northland and Bay of Plenty horticulture industry and says he is thankful to Horticulture NZ, the Bay of Plenty Young Grower competition organisers, Zespri and NZ Kiwifruit Growers (NZKGI).

“You cannot be too prepared for this competition and I really appreciate all the support that I receive from the horticulture industry,” he says. By the time he steps up to the line in November, he will also be a first time dad.

Nic Muir

Southern man aiming high in ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’.

Originally from South Otago, and now based in Christchurch, Nic Muir entered the City Parks Services 2014 ‘Young Landscaper of the Year’ competition to test his skills, with the aim of winning it.

He says that the experience was good for his cv as well as industry recognition.  Artworks Landscapes Ltd, his employer, were also confident in his ability to tackle the competition as he is one of their top foremen.

Following his win, their confidence continues as Nic focuses on preparing as a finalist for the 2014 ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ competition in November.

He is researching key areas in preparation for the various competition activities and has already met with leading Christchurch landscaping companies who will support him over the coming months.
He sees the horticulture area as being the most challenging as ‘landscaping is more construction based’. 

Nic says that as Landscape finalists haven’t won the ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ competition yet he would like to change that record. His inspiration is being part of an industry that he’s passionate about, and his goal is “to do everything that I do to the best of my ability.”

“This competition will help me gain and broaden my skills including management, and leadership,” explains Nic. With over 10 years experience in the landscape industry, and a certificate in landscape construction and design from Otago Polytechnic, his long term goal is to own a landscape design and construction business.

His supportive wife (and two young sons) are helping Nic balance family life with mountain biking, while preparing for the competition.  

Paul Robinson

Persistence bears fruit for ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ finalist.

When Paul Robinson stepped up to receive the award for ‘Young Viticulturist of the Year’ it capped off four years of hard work.

The determined 27 year old had competed three times and it was on his fourth attempt that he took the coveted title, and so became a finalist for the 2014 ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ competition.
With 160 h.a of Villa Maria vineyards to manage, Paul’s days change with the seasons. His role as an assistant vineyard manager includes maintenance, monitoring, machinery operation, supervision, and planning.

Originally from Taranaki, Paul moved to the Hawkes Bay in 2004 and has worked for Villa Maria for 7 years. “Villa Maria have had two winners of the ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ so it has been a goal for awhile,” he says.  Between 2006 and 2012, five viticulturists have won the competition, the most recent being Braden Crosby. Paul is well aware of the path in front of him.

Paul sees the biggest challenge will be learning the range of horticulture sector topics that he is not as familiar with, but his proven strategy is to “give it everything I’ve got, and do as well as I can.” He’s tapping into the experience of previous winners from the Viticulture sector to guide him on the AGMARDT project as well as tips for handling the 2 day competition this November.

He’s well supported by his parents in Taranaki, his partner Jess, and the Villa Maria team.
If Paul  transforms his finalist position into a win, he’ll become the sixth viticulturist to win Young Horticulturist of the Year title. He aims to follow previous Viticulture winners “traveling to other winegrowing regions to taste some of the best wine the rest of the world has to offer.”

When Paul’s not walking the vineyard you’ll find this committed sports man on the paddocks playing rugby or touch.

Caitlin Thorburn

Floristry finalist brings down to earth attitude to ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’.

Caitlin Thorburn comes to the ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ with international experience, having competed in Canada against 18 of the world’s top florists in the WorldSkills 2009. This year she won the Excellence Award at the Ellerslie International Flower Show. Caitlin will be representing Florists of New Zealand Inc and NZ Flower Growers Inc in the 2014 ‘Young Horticulturist of the Year’ competition.

Caitlin’s career in floristry also has an international theme. She worked at flowers Manuela in Wellington for 4 years before moving to Amsterdam where she enjoyed catering to the European love of flowers for 2 years.  From October she is sharing her skills in her role with United Flower Growers in Christchurch.

This entrepreneurial finalist has also been developing an online commission based floristry business specialising in events. Caitlin says that development of her website business will be on hold while she focuses representing the Floriculture sector in the’ Young Horticulturist of the Year’ competition.  “I’m a very chilled out, fun loving person and I am happy to help knit my industry together more, from grower to shop,” Caitlin explains.  

Her down to earth attitude is carrying her through her planning for the competition. She knows some of the previous floristry finalists and will be talking to them as part of her preparation.

Having changed jobs and cities three months before the competition, Caitlin says her biggest challenge is the time frame.  She has already begun research on her AGMARDT Market Innovation project which is a media concept designed to link growers and florists in the industry that she loves.
“If I’m lucky enough to win this competition Europe will definitely be on the list, as well as working in the industry to try and change how kiwis view flowers,” says Caitlin. She’s also eagar to help educate kiwis about the time, care, and skill that goes into growing flowers ready for market. Changing how people think about buying flowers is part of this; “they don’t just have to be gift for someone else, they can be something beautiful to take home with your groceries.”

Her support team include her parents along with United Flower Growers, FLONZI and Joy and Garry Knight in Christchurch.

Caitlin applies her creative spirit to her costume design and gardening. “I also enjoy life’s simple pleasures, like riding a bike in the sunshine, listening to bird song, and watching sunsets.”

Shanna Hickling
Young Horticulturist of the Year 2017


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