IT WAS only fitting a Leeton grower receive an inaugural award, which honours the memory of late resident John Davidson.
Leeton citrus grower Jim Hillyer was recently named the inaugural 2017 Lion Grower of the Year for his strong performance throughout the valencia 2016/17 season.
In a particularly challenging year, Mr Hillyer ranked highest in yield, sugar acid ratio and fulfilment of contract for the Valencia season 2016/17.
He is the first recipient of the award after it was established to continue honouring Mr Davidson, who was a long-term team member at Lion Dairy and Drinks organisation and played an integral role in furthering the Leeton juice industry.
Mr Davidson sadly passed away this year.
Lion Dairy and Drinks agriculture procurement director Murray Jeffrey was pleased the award would honour the hard work of growers.
“We’re delighted to present Jim with this award acknowledging his stellar performance, and to establish the Lion Grower of the Year awards as an annual event recognising the best-performing growers in our business,” he said.
Mr Jeffrey said it may affectionately be nicknamed the “Berri award” by many growers, a reference to the brand many had supplied over the years.
“The award’s inspiration, John Davidson, was hugely important not only to Lion, but to the Leeton community as a whole and the entire Australian juice industry,” Mr Jeffrey said.
“We’re proud to encourage other passionate growers to follow in his footsteps through this award.”
For Mr Hillyer, he said it was honoured to receive the award.
He credited his wife, Leonie, and their shared passion for the industry to their successful year.
“It’s fantastic to see our efforts rewarded in this way,” Mr Hillyer said.
“It has been a tough year for our industry, but we’re extremely passionate about what we do.
“To be recognised with this award is a fantastic reward for our hard work and a great honour given the standing John had in the industry.”