Canterbury’s Lydia O’Dowd has been named New Zealand’s Young Plant Producer of the Year.
O’Dowd, from Southern Woods nursery in Rolleston, received the award at a function in Christchurch during which the five finalists delivered their final challenge: a speech about involvement versus commitment.
The Young Plant Producer event, formerly called Young Achiever, tests competitors on the skills needed to run successful plant production. It is organised by NZ Plant Producers (NZPPI), hosted by IPPS (International Plant Propagators’ Society) and supported by the Horticentre Charitable Trust.
The five finalists undertook two days of challenges at Lincoln University, where they were tested on their skills in finance and dispatch, biosecurity, plant propagation and identification, tool maintenance, agrichemical use and irrigation.
The judges looked for individuals who could make a difference in the industry, going beyond great skills to also include leadership, attitude and personality.
O’Dowd is head propagator at Southern Woods nursery and is passionate about sustainability and finding alternatives to agrichemicals, such as natural insecticides. She has certificates in NZ Horticulture in Nursery Production Level 3 & 4 and plans to complete a Diploma in Primary Industry Business Management in the future.
Along with her trophy, O’Dowd won a 12-month programme of mentorship support plus a $4000 fund to advance her career in plant production. She will also take part in the Young Horticulturalist of the Year award in November, when she will compete against finalists from the entire horticulture sector, vying for a prize pool worth more than $20,000.
“I look forward to gaining more knowledge and meeting others who are driven and passionate about hort,” she said.
The runners up were Ellen Ballantine of vegetable breeding company Enza Zaden in Puni, Auckland; Cameron Hay of commercial plant nursery Ardmore Nurseries in Cleveland; August von Reiche of medicinal cannabis research and development company Helius Therapeutics in East Tāmaki, Auckland; and Jake Linklater of non-profit native nursery Nova Natives in Templeton, Christchurch.