Demonstrating specialist skills in viticulture and expertise right across the horticulture sector has seen Craigmore’s Springhill Vineyard Contract Manager recognised at the 2022 Young Horticulturist of the Year competition.

Sam Bain, was awarded second place overall, representing NZ Winegrowers as the Young Viticulturist of the Year, with Regan Judd from the Young Growers named winner at the awards evening on 10  November.

In addition, Sam received the RNZIH Best Speech Award for his topic The consequences of increasing human population pressure on horticulture, where he presented his thoughts on urban creep driving the horticulture sector to new regions and the impact on mental health for people working in the sector (see below).

Employed by the Villa Maria/Indevin group, Sam leads the development of the new Springhill site and the day-to-day operations of the vineyard.

The Young Horticulturist of the Year is an annual event that brings together all sectors to promote excellence and opportunities for young people in horticulture.

Sam competed against six other finalists in five disciplines including horticultural practice, leadership skills, speechcraft, business acumen and industry knowledge.

Springhill Vineyard is 160ha property in Central Hawke’s Bay, which is a new growing region for viticulture. The property has both sauvignon blanc and pinot gris vines, which will deliver its first harvest in March 2023.

The consequences of increasing human population pressure on horticulture, both recreational and commercial

Predictions for population growth estimate that within the next 30 years the world will have to grow as much food as it has in the last 10,000 years.

With Growth models showing no signs of slowing down, the pressure put on the horticulture sector by governments and consumers continues to grow, yet there are no tangible resources created to help the sector through.

With legislation reforms and increasing operating costs, the pressure to get this right whilst continuing to supply the world is becoming a challenge

Urbanization is a concept many of you will be familiar with.

What was once fertile land is now being rezoned into urban areas to cater for the growing population.

The kiwi dream of owning a slice of paradise has been swapped for sustainable living, replacing our desires with necessities as we grapple with rising costs of living.

With favourable land now rezoned, the once clear divide between our urban partners is now intertwined, leaving the industry to navigate this new divide.

Those looking to expand their operations are now having to search further afield to find suitable land. In recent years some have been seen investing in areas where there is little to no horticulture history. For example, Central Hawkes Bay or Raupunga.

Forging new ground is exciting but comes with some consequences. Often these pieces of land require large inputs to make them suitable for horticulture crops. These can include drainage, water storage projects, use of synthetic fertilizers and adding infrastructure to make the land area work.

Altering the environment is a key leader in soil degradation. Soils are a fundamental resource which underpin our economy.

We must find the right balance otherwise the consequences of altering our environment could place the industry in serious jeopardy in years to come.

One consequence often overlooked is the mental health of those involved in horticulture industry. Too often we hear “the biggest asset a business has is the people”, yet the pressure we place on these people continues to grow.

For too long new Zealanders have been stoic and tough, they have bottled it up and pushed through in fear of being labelled weak.

Fortunately, there has been a major shift in culture around mental health.

The focus is shifting to encourage people to speak out and share their experiences in the hope that others will feel they are not alone. By sharing our experiences, we can create tools to help manage our mental health and make the light and the end of the tunnel brighter.

Initiatives like Gumboot Friday, I am hope and farm fit are fundamental in driving this change, but this only signifies the start of change and there is still so much more to do.

Change starts with you!!

It would be fair to say the only constant we face in our industry is ‘Change’.

Change creates opportunities.

Every opportunity has a risk,

The question we need to answer as a collective is how we balance this.

So, what will it be?

Published: 28 November 2022