JUST two years after leaving school to concentrate on horticulture, 18-year-old Ryan Phillips of Manjimup has received a Horticulture Australia Young Leader Award.
Accepting the honour in Sydney, he told a group of 70 industry leaders that leaving school at 16 had closed a lot of doors.
"It's recognition like this that helps me reopen some of those," he said.
WA nursery worker Colin Groom, 27, and Queensland exporter Camilla Philip, 31, also received the award.
It is open to horticulturists aged between 18 and 35.
Ryan works on his family property, which produces potatoes and cauliflowers for export to Malaysia, as well as sheep and cattle.
His duties include growing cauliflowers, managing staff and soil testing.
Sister Jamie nominated him and submitted the names of three referees.
Ryan said the awards ceremony provided a chance to network.
"It was a good opportunity to meet a lot of industry people that can help me in my endeavours," he said.
In his speech, he said water rights was the single biggest issue threatening primary producers.
"The mindset of current politicians seems to overlook the fact that farmers have made past investment decisions on the basis of those rights," he said.
"If those rights are to be taken away, farmers must be compensated accordingly."
He would one day like to take over the family business.
Former Good Fruit and Vegetables editor Tony Biggs won the top prize in horticulture, the Graham Gregory Award.
Mr Biggs has worked in horticulture for 25 years in Australia and for 18 years prior to that in the UK.
"Winning this award is of particular significance to me because of my involvement over a long time with Graham Gregory himself and with the establishment of the award after his passing," Mr Biggs said.
"All the things the award stands for, such as excellence and achievement, are things that are terribly important for Australian horticulture."
Graham Gregory was the founding chairman of the Horticultural Research and Development Corporation.