First Fresh News

Top Freshies gong for Hika grower

"GO-to guy” and outstanding grower John MacPherson was crowned supreme winner at the annual First Fresh “Freshies” awards.

Around 180 people attended the event for which the NZ Fruits packhouse in Lytton Road was transformed into an awards venue.

Kiwi comedian Ben Hurley provided the entertainment and presented the awards.

The Freshies, into their fifth year, celebrate the achievements of all grower suppliers over the previous 12 months and rewards those who achieve the most outstanding performances across citrus, kiwifruit and persimmons.

“We have an amazing bunch of dedicated loyal growers who we love working with. The Freshies is our way of saying thank you,” said First Fresh managing director Ian Albers.

“There is such camaraderie among growers and it is so good to see the genuine support from growers to their peers as the nominees and winners are announced.

“This is an industry where we all have to pull together and it's great to see everyone celebrating success,” he said.

Mr Macpherson, a long-standing grower at Waerenga-a-Hika, won the category award for navel oranges, was a finalist in two other categories and took out the award for Export Grower of the Year.

“John has twice before won our outstanding contribution award so it was only fitting he took out the top award this year,” said Mr Albers.

In addition to being an outstanding grower, he was also a valued and active member on the board of Citrus NZ and a huge advocate for the Gisborne district.

“John is often our ‘go-to guy' whenever we have overseas visitors coming to the region, not just because of the range of crops he grows (persimmons, Encore Satsuma and Gold Nugget mandarins, Meyer lemons and kiwfruit), but also because he is very good at growing and very good at explaining the finer points of growing to an audience for whom English is a second language.”

Del Nield, of NZ Fruits, was named Service Provider of the Year for her steadfast work at the company over the last 20 years.

The First Fresh/Bill Thorpe scholarship prize went to Izzy Ellmers who is heading to Massey University to study horticultural science.

“Izzy previously worked for First Fresh doing crop monitoring and also on her parents' citrus orchard,” Mr Albers said.

“That's where she developed a passion for horticulture and it's great to see her coming back and fulfilling that dream after a couple of years overseas.

“Last year's winner, Dylan Hall, has had an amazing first year at Massey and it's great we have had another outstanding candidate in Izzy as we look to support young people into the horticulture industry.”

Mr Albers said Ben Hurley was great onstage reading out the nominees and the winners and putting everyone at ease with his tongue firmly in his cheek style.

“Later he had the audience in fits of laughter as he regaled them with some great slice-of-life storytelling.

“Ben revealed he is actually a green kiwifruit grower in the Bay of Plenty so had plenty in common with a lot of the growers even though he is, his words, ‘very hands-off' in the orchard.”