Simon Gourley from Domaine Thomson, Central Otago, has been named as the Young Horticulturist of the Year 2019. Having won the Bayer Young Viticulturist of the Year competition at the end of August, Gourley went on to represent the viticultural sector in this tough and prestigious competition.
The competition was held mid-November, where Simon competed against five other finalists from other horticultural sectors – Landscaping NZ, NZ Flower Growers, NZ Horticulture, NZ Plant Producers and NZ Amenity Horticulture.
The contestants were tested in depth on a wide range of skills and knowledge related to horticulture. This included their own specific sectors as well as biosecurity, machinery, HR, agchem, leadership skills, presentation skills, budgeting and community engagement.
Several weeks were also spent working on the AGMARDT Market Innovation Project. Contestants had to submit a business plan for a new product they would like to develop and launch, then were quizzed by a panel of judges on its viability.
They also had to give a speech at the Awards dinner in front of a large audience of key horticultural leaders.
“Without a doubt, it is a very tough competition,” says Nicky Grandorge, Leadership & Communities Manager for NZ Winegrowers and National Co-ordinator for Young Viticulturist of the Year. “Simon has worked extremely hard and is a very talented young viticulturist. The wine industry is incredibly proud of him winning this prestigious competition.”
Gourley is the eighth Young Vit to win the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition in the 15 years it has been running. In fact, it has now been won two consecutive years by Young Vits, both coming from Central Otago. Annabel Bulk from Felton Road was last year’s winner.
“It is exciting to know the New Zealand wine industry has such strong leaders emerging for the future,” says Grandorge. “The Young Viticulturist of the Year competition plays an important role in this leadership development and then the support, mentorship and experience they receive from taking part in the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition builds on this even further. It’s fantastic for the individual and fantastic for horticulture as a whole.”