Xavier Toohey Tops Young Growers

Young Grower of the Year Winner 2021 Xavier Toohey

36-year-old potato grower Xavier Toohey from Wallace in Victoria has been named the 2021 Corteva Agriscience Young Grower of the Year.

The award, sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, was announced at the AUSVEG National Awards for Excellence held at the Hort Connections Gala Dinner in Brisbane.

Hailed as the biggest honour for horticulture leaders of the future, the award celebrates outstanding young growers who champion industry success and show a commitment to innovation.

In a crop of 14 shortlisted nominees from across Australia, Xavier was recognised as the best in his field based on his achievements, commitment, ingenuity, and the active role he plays in horticulture.

Marketing Manager for Horticulture & Insecticides for Corteva Agriscience, Nick Koch said it was a thrill to announce Xavier Toohey as 2021’s Young Grower of the Year.

“Xavier’s tenacity and enthusiasm for producing potatoes are incredible. He’s just the sort of passionate grower our industry needs,” Mr Koch said.

“At a time when other people were leaving the potato industry, Xavier committed to it and invested in it. He now has two farms, and it’s a real credit to him,” he said.

Mr Koch said what made Xavier’s achievements more impressive is the fact he’s developed his business rapidly with limited external support.

“Not only has he built a successful and sustainable business in a short space of time, but he’s done it off his own steam,” he said.

“A lot of young people have help to get them started in farming, but Xavier did it on his own through sheer hard work and determination. He’s also stepping up and taking leadership at an industry level as well, which is fantastic.

“The Young Grower of the Year Award is about our industry recognising exceptional young growers like Xavier.

“Although he couldn’t be with us in person tonight, due to the Covid restrictions, I’m sure he’s celebrating in Victoria, and we’ll certainly be catching up with him soon to say congratulations in person.”

Corteva Agriscience also congratulated the thirteen shortlisted nominees for Young Grower of the Year:

Young Grower of the Year 2021 Nominees

Meet the nominees for the 2021 Young Grower of the Year award.

Anthony De Ieso, age 30, Adelaide, SA

Anthony De leso
Business Thorndon Park Produce
Expertise Growing vegetables!
Crop Focus Bunch Line vegetables
Methods Intense outdoor horticulture Commercial methods and others such as IPM

Caitlin Radford, age 22, Grower and Director, Moriarty TAS

Caitlin Radford
Business CO Agriculture Pty Ltd
Crop Focus Wheat, potatoes, carrots & fodder crops
Methods Bio fumigation, strip tilling & biodynamic
Young Grower Challenges The initial costs and opportunity of starting a farm on their own
In 5 years I'll be: Running my own farm with my partner, introducing some new technology and hopefully will have found a niche crop to grow

Kane Busch, age 33, Grower, Bairnsdale VIC

Kane Busch
Business Busch Organics
Crop Focus Celery, broccoli & cabbage
Methods Certified Organic farming using regenerative farming techniques
Young Grower Challenges Managing workload and labour shortages
In 5 years I'll be: Seeing the business have improved structures and strong markets to keep up with the strong growth

Renee Pye, age 26, Marketing and New Product Dev. Manager, Parilla SA

Renee Pye
Business Zerella Fresh
Crop Focus Potatoes, carrots, onions & cereal crops
Methods Conventional farming with IPM
Young Grower Challenges Availability of professional development through networking and face to face courses
In 5 years I'll be: Working on different farming techniques to help better the industry and discovering more sustainable produce packaging

Jake Shadbolt, age 26, Grower, Swan Hill VIC

Jake Shadbolt, age 26, Grower, Swan Hill VIC
Business Scotties Point Farms
Crop Focus Beetroot, Broccoli, Onions & Pumpkins
Methods Conventional Farming
Young Grower Challenges Finding people who are young and hard working
In 5 years I'll be: Married, with some children and fully running Scotties Point Farms in partnership with my brother

Marlon Motlop, age 31, Director and Farm Manager, Adelaide SA

Marlon Motlop
Business The Native Co./Quality Harvest
Crop Focus Australian native herbs, fruits & leafy greens
Methods Nutrient Filmi Technique, IPM, Protected Cropping, climate-controlled greenhouse
Young Grower Challenges Startup costs of creating a business and challenges to secure education and training due to funding
In 5 years I'll be: Educating the community to use Australian natives through school programs & creating opportunities for Indigenous Australians

Sam Spirili, age 29, Grower, Wandin North VIC

Sam Spirili
Business Spirli Strawberries
Crop Focus Strawberries
Methods Mostly conventional with a large focus around IPM. Recently moved into hydroponic
Young Grower Challenges Labour and working out how we can do things as efficiently and sustainably as possible
In 5 years I'll be: Still learning and finding new challenges to keep the industry moving forward

Jake Ryan, age 26, Grower, Manjimup WA

Jake Ryan
Business Three Ryans/Goodooga Farms
Crop Focus Cauliflower, Broccoli, Kale, White Cabbage, Red Cabbage & Cereal Crops
Methods Conventional and regenerative farming
Young Grower Challenges Convincing the older generation to give young growers a go and difficulty for young growers to get started in the industry
In 5 years I'll be: Trailling new ideas, in order to produce healthier and more nutrient-dense food and consulting to help farmers transition into regenerative farming

Justin Vanstone, Grower, Crowley Vale QLD

Justin Vanstone
Business Vanstone Produce
Crop Focus Spring onions, Silverbeet, Broccoli, Broccolini & Pumpkin
In 5 years I'll be: Exploring the possibility of exporting any of the products we currently grow and whether there is a market for them internationally.

Mitchel East, age 28, Owner/Manager, Manjimup WA

mitchel-east
Business Willarra Gold
Crop Focus Passionfruit, Avocados
Methods Regenerative/Biological
Young Grower Challenges Continuing to farm into the future with a changing natural environment. Meeting the demands of regulation and the market as it shifts to an environmental and ethical focus towards food production and consumption.
In 5 years I'll be: Still farming, but on my own land with my partner. Developing agritourism and expanding our processing facility to utilise unsalable fresh food so we can build resilience in our land and our business. 

Matthew Griggs, age 32, General Manager, Lucaston, TAS

Matthew Griggs
Business Lucaston Park Orchards
Crop Focus Cherries, Apples, raspberries, plum, quince
Methods Conventional Farming, IPM
Young Grower Challenges

High cost of entry to the agriculture industry. Finding quality managment teams and harvest crews to support young growers.

In 5 years I'll be: I see myself leading a highly motivated multi-skilled team who share the common goal of producing the best possible fruit at a competitive price!  

Xavier Toohey, age 36, Grower, Wallace VIC

xavier toohey
Business Xavier Toohey
Crop Focus Potatoes, canola, wheat, lucerne, hay, lambs and cattle
Methods Conventional – but we’re always trying new things.
Young Grower Challenges

Getting a start, that's the hardest thing. Pests and diseases, commodity prices and labour are also huge issues.

In 5 years I'll be Still on the farm, hopefully a little less in debt and in the position to have a bit more family time.

Christina Kelman, age 26, Grower, Wallacia NSW

Christina Kelman
Business Rita’s Farm
Crop Focus Leafy greens, legumes, citrus, root vegetables and fruit-bearing crops including tomato, zucchini, capsicum and eggplant
Methods Certified organic

Jase Dobra, Grower, Gingin, WA

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Business: Loose Leaf Lettuce Company

Nick Koch said the work that all nominated young growers are doing is phenomenal.

“They are Australia’s best and the brightest. What they’ve achieved and what they’re doing really showcases the depth of talent in the industry. We look forward to getting to know them all more as part of the Young Grower Alumni,” he said.

AUSVEG, the industry representative body for the Australian vegetable and potato industries, manages the 2021 National Awards for Excellence, including the Young Grower of the Year Award.