Nelson man takes NZ Young Grower of the Year title

Jono Sutton was announced as the winner at a gala event in Tauranga.
Jono Sutton was announced as the winner at a gala event in Tauranga. Photo credit: Supplied

A Nelson man with a strong family connection to horticulture in the region has been named as New Zealand Young Grower of the Year 2019.

Jono Sutton was announced as the winner at an awards dinner in Tauranga on Wednesday night.

As the regional Nelson finalist he was up against six other contestants from around New Zealand.

The finalists were tested on a range of practical tasks and theory during the week, culminating in the awards presentation.

The 26-year-old said he was overwhelmed at winning.

"This is one of horticulture's highest achievements for a young person, so winning it is massive," he said.

Sutton continues a family tradition of horticulture as his grandparents are local Nelson berry and apple growers in Nelson.

He said it was special to have them in Tauranga to support him.

"It's really great to have really genuine support where win or lose, they think you're the best anyway." 

"They've been in the industry since the 80s, when they transferred from agriculture to horticulture with the help of my father. For them to be able to pass the baton on to me is a real blessing."

HortNZ Chief Executive Mike Chapman said the Young Grower of the Year competition was important because it highlighted horticulture as a vibrant career for young people.

"Our $6 billion industry continues to grow in response to worldwide and domestic demand for fresh healthy food. At the same time, our industry is responding to new requirements, particularly in the areas of freshwater, land use, food safety, and health and safety," he said.

"These areas offer young people many and varied career opportunities. I am positive that all entrants in 2019's Young Grower competition have benefited from the experience and will continue to grow and support horticulture."

The annual Young Grower of the Year competition is run by Horticulture New Zealand and supported by platinum sponsor, the Horticentre Charitable Trust.