Collaborative growing gives NorthTec students experience

17 December 2021

Collaborative growing gives NorthTec students experience

NorthTec has teamed up with Kaitaia local growers Eric Wagner of the Wagner Trust and Debbie Fullam, to give its horticulture learners hands-on experience in the industry, and the possibility of work in the near future.

Eric Wagner and the Wagner Trust have leased a block of 3-hectare orchard space to NorthTec for a collaborative growing experience. NorthTec’s learners doing the NZ Certificate in Horticulture (Level 3) at the Kaitaia campus will reestablish the orchard planting tamarillo trees and a range of other short-term crops.

“The greatest gift anybody can give to anybody else is knowledge, and to be in a position to impart knowledge is a privilege,” Eric Wagner says. “My plan for this project is to help people attain and add on to their skills.”

Each year, a new group of NorthTec horticulture learners will expand and care for the tamarillo orchard, giving students the experience of developing an orchard from scratch, and working within an existing orchard. Students can propagate seedlings before planting them out, participate in the whole process from start to finish with a goal to create an orchard that producing marketable fruit.

“There are a lot of expectations around marketable fruit, so if they can produce that, they are off to a good start,” says Jim Smith, NorthTec’s Pathway Manager for Agriculture. “Because the orchard isn’t yet producing fruit, students will be able to make mistakes without the consequences that they would have in established orchards or nurseries. Then they can safely learn from those mistakes before they get out into the real world.”

Local avocado orchardist Debbie Fullam is also working with NorthTec’s Kaitaia-based horticulture students to provide practical experience working on her established avocado orchard learning skills needed for work in the industry.

“You plant a seed, and you watch it grow,” says Debbie Fullam. “You get these students in the garden, and you watch them grow. Grow in experience and grow as people, the more they do the more confidence they get. Some of these students just need someone to believe in them.”

Debbie is keen to continue her current relationship with NorthTec helping to train the next generation of farmers, growers, and horticulturists.

“It’s been amazing working with them, I love having them here and seeing them develop as horticulturists and as people,” says Debbie.
 

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