Back in July, Cantabrian Lydia O'Dowd was judged to be New Zealand's Young Plant Grower of the Year for 2023.
Supported by the Horticulture Charitable Trust and held at Lincoln University, these talented contestants were tested on various aspects of plant production, from finance and dispatch to biosecurity, plant propagation, and identification. The judges sought more than just technical skills; they looked for industry game-changers with leadership, positive attitude, and personality.
O'Dowd told REX host Dominic George there was a lot of preparation involved prior to the sharp end of the competition.
"I think my career has been building up to it, that's kind of been my training and my study but I definitely crammed in the last couple of months before the competition," she said.
The Rolleston-based winner joined the competition to meet more people in the industry, particularly those of a similar age to her.
"I think it just felt like a natural next step for me.
"Also put my plant production skills to the test, gain some more experience, knowledge and insight into the industry as a whole so that was really great to do that."
Currently the Head Propagator at Southern Woods Nursery where she leads a team of six, mostly growing natives and some exotics, O'Dowd initially studied Health Science at University before changing tact to focus more on horticulture.
"I took a turn when I was at University and chose the plant biology paper, it kind of kicked me into gear, gave me a bit more direction and I spent the next two years changing my direction to horticulture."
Her family has a history in horticulture, as her Grandfather was a farmer with a passion for horticulture.
"He grew cucumbers, carnations, tomatoes… he was quite experimental, so he had a lot of different fruit and vegetables and he had about 10 glasshouses.
"I remember as a kid running around, peeking through all the doors and having a look at the plants.
"I feel like that's where it all started, I just didn't realise it until later in life."
Her next challenge is competing in the NZ Young Horticulturalist of the Year and will be up against other young winners from all different parts of the wider Horticulture industry.
The competition is set to be held in Auckland, in November this year with a prize pool of $20,000 up for grabs.
Listen to the full chat between NZ Young Plant Grower of the Year Lydia O'Dowd and Dominic George above.