Mount Maunganui witnessed a display of all-around excellence as Sydney Hines, an orchard manager from Ōpōtiki, claimed the coveted title of Bay of Plenty Young Grower for 2023.
In a stunning debut performance, the 24-year-old not only conquered the practical challenges but also captivated the judges with her insightful speech on biotechnology, earning her a well-deserved spot in the upcoming national finals to be held in Pukekohe this October.
With her proud family in attendance and the esteemed Minister of Education Jan Tinetti presenting the award, Sydney outshone seven other formidable contenders, emerging victorious by clinching five out of the ten tasks.
Ashdon Reid from Southern Cross Horticulture showcased impressive skills, winning two tasks and securing the runner-up position.
Reflecting on her triumph, a jubilant Sydney exclaimed, "There were moments during the tasks that challenged me, but the 'day in the life of an orchard manager' test was the one where I felt reasonably confident, and it turned out to be the first time anyone completed it all!"
Clearly overjoyed by her achievements, she added, "I never anticipated being on stage so many times - I was genuinely surprised when I won the speech competition and completely overwhelmed by the overall victory. It's an incredible feeling."
Sydney's upbringing on a third-generation dairy farm in Mangakino, coupled with her two years of dedicated work for Sybton Horticulture—a renowned orchard management company with interests in the Eastern Bay and Northland—undoubtedly contributed to her success.
In her role, she oversees 35 hectares of avocados and approximately 240 hectares of kiwifruit, primarily located around Kerikeri and Ōpōtiki. Notably, she holds a Bachelor of Agribusiness from Massey University and is currently adding the final touches to a post-graduate diploma in horticulture science through Lincoln University, further exemplifying her commitment to the field.
The day-long competition, which took place at Mount Maunganui College and Mercury Baypark, featured an array of tasks that tested the participant's skills, including tractor-backing and loading, soil moisture management, and biosecurity theory.
Sydney's exceptional performance earned her not only a brand-new chainsaw but also the prestigious $1,500 first prize. Additionally, she secured a $2,500 Upskilling Committee scholarship, providing further opportunities for her professional growth.
Erin Atkinson, the Chair of the Bay of Plenty Young Growers, applauded the ever-increasing calibre of the contestants, stating, "While it has been a challenging year for many Bay of Plenty growers, the emerging talent within the industry has undeniably brightened our spirits.
"The infusion of youthful energy, passion, and expertise is crucial for the future of our horticulture sector, and we are delighted to once again showcase these exceptional individuals this year."
Sydney Hines's remarkable victory as the Bay of Plenty Young Grower for 2023 not only celebrates her outstanding achievements but also highlights the promising future of horticulture in the region.