On June 22, a bracing winter's day, I went to the Silver Secateurs competition at Yealand's Vineyard in Grovetown.
It was the first time I had ever been quite this close to the viticultural industry in action and I found it interesting and impressive. It also brought back memories from my own shearing competition days.
When I spoke to the organisers, I discovered that they had picked up some ideas from shearing and agricultural industry events.
It's good to be close to people at work within our primary industries. There's a particular kind of closeness and understanding and on this particular day that understanding was enhanced by the opportunity to meet hard-working people here under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.
The Silver Secateurs has prestige, history and proud sponsorship, all of which make it thoroughly professional and add pride to an industry that recognises quality pruning and tying as integral to growing top-quality fruit for fine wines.
How does the Silver Secateurs competition work?
There are several categories, novice pruning and tying, open pruning and tying and team events. There's no doubt that the competition is going from strength to strength, with about 100 competitors vying for top honours.
The whole competition is very similar to shearing competitions, but on a smaller scale. However, over time I expect it will gain even greater significance as it adds prestige to the job.
I noted the big difference between the experienced and novice workforce and it was good to see the contractors taking such an active role.
The way the industry works, the grower deals with the contractor, who in turn deals with the work gang, so the need for an understanding of what constitutes a quality job and good communication is essential.
Back to June 22 and the biggest difference between a shearing competition and the Silver Secateurs. Our competitions always took place in the shelter of a woolshed. We were shearing big, warm, woolly sheep and after I had shorn a couple of sheep, the handpiece would be warm too.
In contrast, the vineyard workers were outside in a cold southerly breeze with snow on the hills and damp earth underfoot.
The job is a tough ask for anyone, let alone those who come from the tropics each year.
However, the smiles, chatter from the competitors and overall feeling of friendship made it all warm and friendly.
It was a great day and everyone was made to feel particularly welcome – whether a competitor or an onlooker.
- The Marlborough Express