Donnybrook’s John Hearman named as finalist for national award

Stuart McGuckinSouth Western Times
Donnybrook’s John Hearman is in the running to be name the Corteva Young Grower Award.
Camera IconDonnybrook’s John Hearman is in the running to be name the Corteva Young Grower Award.

Donnybrook fruit-grower John Hearman has been named as a finalist in the Corteva Young Grower of the Year Award.

The award aims to recognise the next generation of growers under the age of 35 within Australia’s horticulture industry and Mr Hearman is one of eight finalists.

He said he did not know much about the award prior to being nominated.

“I didn’t even know it existed, but it’s good to know someone reckons you are going all right,” he said.

Mr Hearman was unsure as to the exact reason he was nominated, but suspected it was because of some of the different approaches he took to grow nursery trees.

“We’ve been growing our own nursery trees for 10 years or so now and we’ve just changed the way we do it,” he said.

“Normally you’d grow them in the ground, dig them up and transplant them to the orchard when they are ready – but often you’d get what is called transplant shock or some other problems.

“So we’ve been growing them in bags instead to avoid those things.”

Mr Hearman recently took over running the family orchard and said it was something he had done “forever”.

The next lot of trees he plants will be much closer together as well, which is something he does not think is done in the region.

He said taking different approaches grew out of necessity.

“We started planting our own trees because we weren’t happy with what we bought,” he said.

“There has always been problems growing them in the dirt – to grow apple trees you need to keep planting in new spots.

“Once you plant in one spot you can’t ever really use that spot again, you are looking for new ground all the time and that’s clearly not ideal.

“That’s what started me thinking about bags and then there were a lot of other benefits that didn’t even occur to me at the time – we get better trees and what used to take two years only takes one.”

The awards will be presented as part of the Hort Connection National Awards at Gala Dinner in Melbourne on June 26.

Mr Hearman said he was looking forward to the opportunity to talk to other growers about their different approaches.

“It’s across a few different fields so there will certainly be some different knowledge coming together,” he said. “A lot of it might not be relevant to me, but it will be useful and interesting in its own way.”

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