From the benefit to a finalist in the Ahuwhenua Young Maori Grower of the year award, Hawke's Bay man Maatutaera Tipoki Akonga, 26-years-old, has worked his way up through the horticulture ranks.
Hawke's Bay born and bred, he now takes charge of 80 hectares of apple trees.
Senior leading hand at Llewellyn Horticulture, Maatutaera Tipoki Akonga says, "All the pushing from the boss I had, he just mentored me through it all and all of a sudden I was running teams of 20 people and dealing with people and training them face-to-face. So it's definitely given me a lot of life skills out of it."
After accepting an opportunity through social welfare to work in the packhouse, he was able to get qualified in horticulture.
"From there, I got offered a full-time job out in the orchard and I just come outside and loved it too much to go anywhere else, and so I stuck around."
He has now been named a finalist in the inaugural Ahuwhenua Young Maori Grower Award.
"You don't think you have much of a chance, and then to be called up and told you're in the first stage, in the first round and then into the top three, it's an amazing feeling really but I didn't expect it."
However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, a winner is unable to be determined just yet, and the awards night is postponed until further notice.