Caleb Dennis shares his experiences about the competition, the challenges faced and the benefits to his subsequent career.
What drove you to enter?
Initially, I was rather reluctantly convinced to enter the regional Young Vit, I did fairly well that year coming 3rd, from there I realized how much I had to gain from the competition so entered again coming second the next year and then going all the way on my third year. The learning and exposure that the competition offered me was a real driving motivation for me to keep entering and striving to win.
How did you prepare for the competition?
Mostly through my day to day work, although I did spend quite a bit of time going back over past notes and textbooks. Constantly bugging my workmates and managers for information and tricks also seemed to help.
What was the most valuable aspect of the competition for you?
Learning, networking and building my profile were where I saw the key value for me.
What has been the greatest change since winning the competition to your career role/business/goals?
Since winning I have moved to a new job, this has been a pretty big and enjoyable change for me, I’m now the viticulturalist for a new company working with the existing vineyards as well as doing significant development and brand growth, It is an amazing opportunity for me. I have also been asked to speak at a few conferences and industry workshops. It has really got my name out in the industry and afforded me a number of opportunities that I would have otherwise not had.
What aspect of the competition did you find to be the most challenging?
For me personally, it was the project, but this was more from a time perspective. Overall every aspect of the competition had its own challenges, this was part of the enjoyment for me.
What have you been able to achieve with your prizes?
I used the leadership prize to do the Kellogg Rural Leadership course, this was an amazing opportunity and a great learning experience. I am using the travel prize to travel to Burgundy to visit some top producers as well as vineyard equipment suppliers that are doing leading-edge precision viticulture as well as high-density planting equipment. I'm also going to Sonoma and Napa visiting with one of the region’s top organic viticulturalists and a number of other premium producers.
If you were to offer any advice to a new competitor considering entering, what would you tell them?
What have you got to lose? Just enter!
2015 NZ Young Horticulturalist of the Year
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