Young Fruitgrower winner kept busy on family property

Ellen Watt is the Central Otago Young Fruitgrower of the Year. Photo: Ivor Earp-Jones
Ellen Watt is the Central Otago Young Fruitgrower of the Year. Photo: Ivor Earp-Jones
A member of a remarkable Waitaki Valley family is the Central Otago Young Fruitgrower of the Year.

Ellen Watt (23) won the title in Cromwell on May 24, after completing a series of challenges alongside five other contenders.

Miss Watt is the second of Justin and Julie Watt's eight children, most of whom were home schooled on their 32ha property, Waitaki Orchards, just east of Kurow. The family featured in Central Rural Life on March 13.

Miss Watt co-manages the packhouse, oversees the spraying programme and organises compliance audits.

She spends most Friday mornings in a commercial kitchen installed on the orchard, making items such as sorbets, galettes, crumbles, cheesecakes and chutneys to sell at the farmers' market in Dunedin on Saturdays.

Miss Watt attended baking school in Timaru for a year and took nearly a year to complete her food compliance qualification.

After entering the fruitgrower competition in 2016 and 2017, placing third in the latter, she tried again this year to ''see how it went''.

''It turned out quite well.

''I'm really stoked to have won,'' she said just after being awarded the title.

''Coming in this morning, I had no idea how it was going to go, but I got more confident through the day and I guess that paid off.

''I'm definitely glad I gave it a go - this is a great way to really get young people working together.''

The competition's challenges included irrigation and calibration, pest and disease identification, tractor maintenance, first aid and a speech.

Miss Watt won prizes for the calibration, first aid and speech modules on the way to the overall title.

Second place went to Tim Officer, of Dunstan Hills, Alexandra, and Lyssa Jones of Timaru's MA Orchards was third.

Miss Watt will progress to the 2019 Young Grower of the Year in Tauranga on October 1 and 2, where she will compete against four other regional fruitgrowers and two vegetable growers.

''Horticulture is growing and changing, and how we grow has to change with it,'' Horticulture New Zealand vice-president Bernadine Guilleux said.

''People like Ellen and the other competitors are the ones that will bring us into tomorrow.

''We have some really exciting times ahead.''

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