Regan Judd has been named the Young Horticulturist of the Year. 

Speaking after winning the coveted Young Horticulturist (Kaiahuone rangatahi o te tau) title at the finals in Karaka last night, Regan said he was “blown away” about winning, given he was up against “such a strong group of people”.

Regan represents the Young Grower of the Year, Horticulture NZ Fruit & Vegetable Sectors and works as an orchard sector manager with T&G Global in the Hawkes Bay. 

The 26-year-old was up against six other finalists representing different sectors within the horticulture industry. 

Regan has been with T&G Global - a grower, distributor, marketer, and exporter of fresh produce - for five-and-a-half years, ever since moving to Napier following his Massey University studies.  He left university armed with a Bachelor of Agriscience majoring in horticulture.

The competition’s second place getter is also from the Hawkes Bay. Sam Bain is a vineyard manager employed by Villa Maria Estates. In third place is Cantabrian Courtney Chamberlain, who is assistant manager of Hadstock Farm and represents the Young Florist/Flower Grower sector. 

The seven competing Young Horticulturist Competition sectors are: Young Amenity Horticulturist (New Zealand Recreation Association); Young Achiever (New Zealand Plant Producers incorporated); Young Florist/Flower Grower (FLONZI Florists and Flower Growers NZ Incorporated); Young Landscaper of the Year (Registered Master Landscapers New Zealand); Young Viticulturist of the Year (NZ Winegrowers); and Young Grower of the Year (Horticulture New Zealand Fruit & Vegetable Sectors). The seven competitors were selected as finalists after competition placings within their own industries.

The competition, which is now in its 17th year is renowned for its rigor. Finalists are judged across several challenges including practical skills, industry expertise, leadership ability, business knowledge and communication. 

Young Horticulturist chairperson Hamish Gates says the Young Horticulturist of the Year event offers an opportunity like no other for emerging leaders to challenge themselves and refine their skills.

“The confidence finalists gain within our event sets them up to take on bigger challenges in their daily lives. We strive for one thing – to seed the future now,” he says.

During the finals competitors were involved in leadership interviews, were asked to present their views on sustainability, tackled an innovation project, prepared and presented a speech, and were challenged on various practical skills. 

Regan’s first prize includes a $7,500 Travel, Accommodation and Professional Development Package.

Growing fruit that reaches all corners of the globe thrills Regan. Thanks to his prize money he’ll get to go and check that fruit out – on one continent anyway. He plans to travel to Europe once he’s got through the NZ harvest.

“I know how we do apples in New Zealand, but I’m keen to observe the European techniques,” he says.

The first prize also includes $1,250 ICL Fertilisers vouchers, a one-year membership of The New Zealand Institute of Agricultural & Horticultural Science (NZIAHS) and a selection of Aorangi Merchant products.

Regan encourages other young people to strive to compete in the Young Horticulturist Competition.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn new things, meet new people and get networking,” he says.

Hamish says the Young Horticulturalist competition is important for horticulture in New Zealand and couldn’t occur without the support of official partners – T&G Fresh, Countdown, and Fruitfed Supplies - and supporters, plus friends of the competition. 

The competition also includes Countdown Innovation Project Prizes and these were awarded to Courtney Chamberlain (1st), Jodie McDonnell (2nd) and Amy Clark (3rd). 

The other finalists in this year’s competition were Solomon Caldwell and Guillaume Chabbert.

The competition’s winner last year was South Island viticulturist Rhys Hall.