Production horticulture industry honours its finest at Grower of the Year Awards 2011

More than 500 production horticulture professionals from every corner of the UK gathered in London last week for the Grower of the Year Awards 2011.

Taking the top prizes for Grower of the Year, Edibles and Grower of the Year, Ornamentals, were vegetable and soft fruit grower Stewarts of Tayside and container tree nursery Majestic Trees.

Stewarts of Tayside, whose award was presented on stage by NFU board for horticulture and potatoes chairman Sarah Pettitt, had earlier taken the prize for top field vegetable grower in the scheme's most hotly-contested category of the night, which also saw three high commendations for Barfoots of Botley, Benzies and Lincolnshire Field Products.

The family-run business was described by judges as exhibiting a thirst for innovation backed up by smart investment that enabled it to stay ahead of changes in market requirements.

Majestic Trees' triumph in the ornamentals section followed its win for best nursery stock grower. The nursery continues to outstrip average industry profit margins several times over, thanks in part to an insistence on focusing on value rather than price and outstanding customer service. The gold award was presented by HTA president Caroline Owen.

The awards audience, which was addressed by HW editor Kate Lowe and NFU president Peter Kendall, was clearly delighted by the number of young people among the winners. They included mailordertrees.co.uk (Business Initiative of the Year, Ornamentals), whose team has an average age of 20.

Meanwhile, strong entries in the Young Grower of the Year category saw two awards given - to Brian Moralee of Wight Salads for Edibles and Stephen Hansord of Delamore for Young Plants - while Christopher Price of EJ & RC Price & Son earned a high commendation.

The Grower of the Year Awards have been organised by Horticulture Week for the past five years. The main event sponsors were Asda, the HTA and the NFU. The host was TV's Paul Ross.

- The winner of the ornamentals gold category, Majestic Trees, will go through to the International Grower of the Year competition, won last year by Hillier Nurseries.

GROWER OF THE YEAR AWARDS 2011: THE WINNERS

Contribution to Industry: Bob Ellis, Flamingo Flowers.

Best New Variety, Edibles: Flower Sprout, Manor Fresh.

Top Fruit Grower of the Year: Lower Hope Fruit.

Nursery Stock Grower of the Year: Majestic Trees.

Salad Grower of the Year: Home Harvest Salads.

Soft Fruit Grower of the Year: Wallings Nursery.

Vegetable Grower of the Year: Stewarts of Tayside.

Organic Grower of the Year: AJ & CI Snell.

Best New Variety, Ornamentals: 'Princess Anne' Rose, David Austin Roses.

Cut Flower Grower of the Year: RF Lawrence & Sons.

Bedding & Pot Plant Grower of the Year: Pentland Plants.

Business Initiative of the Year, Edibles: British Watermelons, New Farm Produce, Fresca Group.

Business Initiative of the Year, Ornamentals: Michael Simpson, mailordertrees.co.uk.

Consumer Marketing Campaign of the Year: E Oldfoyd & Sons, Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb.

Trade Marketing Campaign of the Year: Edible Ornamentals.

Technical Product of the Year: Passfield Data Systems, Passfield 5 Nursery management software.

Sales & Marketing Professional of the Year: Sarah Shynn, Majestic Trees.

Young Grower of the Year, Edibles: Brian Moralee, Wight Salads.

Young Grower of the Year, Young Plants: Stephen Hansord, Delamore.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Peter Moore, Longstock Park Nursery.

SPONSORS

Event: ASDA, HTA, NFU.

Category: MorePeople, Quinton Edwards, Gardeners' World Live, LS Systems, Flamingo Holdings, Landgard, Botanicoir, Rijk Zwaan, Fruit Focus, New Spitalfields Market, Glee.

JUDGES

John Adlam, Dove Associates; Andrew Hewson, ADAS; Chris Rose, Chris Rose Associates; John Tugman, William Sinclair Horticulture; John Breach, British Independent Fruit Growers Association; David O'Connor, Allium & Brassica Centre.


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