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Stephen Wade (Employer), and Melanie Peters
“I finished my level 4 horticulture course a few years ago after we had bought a lifestyle block in the Far North and wanted to get into horticulture. I had since drifted back into office work but I was keen to return to horticulture. A friend who knew the manager at Lynwood Avocado Nursery suggested I make enquiries there. The avocado industry is in a huge growth phase, and Lynwood propagate avocado plants so they were looking for staff.”
“I got work here as a Nursery Assistant and I’ve worked in a few different areas but have been mostly in the clonal propagation area. I love the environment and the people here.
“The practicality of the NorthTec horticulture course was really good training for this work. As well as basic plant handling, we learnt about biological control and integrated pest management, plus the importance of record keeping for work diaries, weather and pests and diseases. We also did a hands-on community project making vegetable beds for a mental health half-way house in Kaitaia.”
“Although I had a good foundation in horticulture knowledge, my growth since I’ve been in this job is in gaining a better understanding of the commercial side of horticulture. There’s a lot involved in the commercial processes and logistics and I’m enjoying learning about that.”
“I have recently been introduced to all the stages in the seedling department here so I can co-ordinate my colleagues in that area. It’s a step up for me and I’m keen to learn more. I’d now like to do further higher education particularly in botany which I’ve become fascinated with since working here.”
“Melanie approached us when she had heard that we could be looking for staff. It was immediately apparent from both her personality and her NorthTec course training that she had the drive, was interested in the field, and had basic horticultural knowledge. As well as basic plant handling skills, she knew what a fungus was, she knew about pesticides and the difference between good and bad insects – basic things across horticulture.”
“We’re a production nursery growing solely avocados from seedlings and clonal rootstocks to supply avocado plants to the industry and to retailers. The industry is in a huge growth phase at the moment because there is a global shortage of avocados, so our nursery has had a massive growth curve in recent years. We now grow a total of 150,000 trees a year and we have 47 full time staff.”
“Melanie had both the personality and the potential to be a team leader here so we started her at about the mid-way level in the team. We move any new person around different areas of the nursery to find out what they’re good at and what they like doing, and on the basis of that we’re now training Melanie to be team leader in our seedling department.”
“She is very calm as well as enthusiastic so is great with our team. Melanie also knows the technical skills and processes involved in the clonal propagation process, and the grading and severing of trees. There’s a subtle language and context that goes working with plants and some people, like Melanie, have an eye and a feel for it. We’re happy to have her for as long as, and as far as, she wants to be here.”
“We’re selective with who we employ here but when we’re looking for staff we need people ranging in qualifications from a Bachelor in Horticulture, to level 4 horticulture, to no training at all. What we’re interested in is someone keen on working with plants who can fit into our team.”
“Come to NorthTec to study because it’s supportive, there are easy steps to follow, you can learn a lot from the...
“With what I’m learning, it’s exciting to think about what the future holds – both as an individual and for our...
“I was wanting more meaningful work and had been in the north about 18 months doing part-time work until I decided I wanted to study horticulture. It is values based, hands-on and focuses on sustainability which is necessary for future generations. It’s fascinating to me. I was originally from the city and came up here to be nearer family, so the content is all new to me and I’m learning a completely different lifestyle.”
“With what I’m learning, it’s exciting to think about what the future holds – both as an individual and for our greater culture. I’m surprised at how broad the course is and that we can apply what we learn to any aspect of our lives – at home, at work and even spiritually.”
“We have a variety of students in our class all with different views but our common interest puts us all in the same bubble. It’s a very healing environment to be in and the tutor has a real passion and knowledge.”
“At the moment I’m living at home but the course is giving me ideas of how to run my own farm and to share that with children and social groups. For me the outcome will be more about lifestyle than career, and when I finish level 4 I’m keen to talk to schools and young people about waste and environmental issues.”
“I want to make the most of what’s on offer here which includes the support network and community as well as the study, and I’ll see what happens after that.”
NorthTec was a great training ground. I was impressed with the quality of the tutors. I was apprehensive at first but...
From working voluntarily a few hours a week at Tahi Estate, to being employed full time as Honey Operations Manager for their honey business, is sweet success for Knox Henderson. Knox – “A lot has happened in just three years since finishing my horticulture level 4 at NorthTec.”
It was his horticulture course that introduced Knox to Tahi Estate at Pataua North. “One of our classes had a field trip there and I was blown away by what they were doing.”
Tahi Estate is well known now as a coastal property dedicated to the conservation and preservation of ecosystems. It also offers eco-retreat accommodation and has an expanding manuka honey production enterprise. Dr John Craig and Dr Anne Stewart, along with their daughter Suzan, bought over 740 acres of run-down farmland and planted thousands of trees, creating a bush and wetland haven. John was the co-designer of Tiritiri Island so has extensive experience and accolades for his environmental work, and Anne has years of experience in conservation and horticulture. It was the philosophy behind the Tahi project and the scope of it that fascinated Knox.
“Our course required that we get practical work experience to underpin our class theory, so I started working there on Mondays - our course day off. I worked at whatever was happening - planting trees, helping in the native tree nursery, general farm work or maintenance. At the time, John and Anne were in the process of building the honey house and were keen to expand honey production at Tahi Estate.”
Knox continued to work on the property during holidays and, when his NorthTec course finished, he started applying for jobs. “I wasn’t getting anywhere, but at that same time the Tahi Estate honey facility opened and I helped there processing honey for 2-3 weeks. After that they kept finding me work on the farm for a full working week and I kept turning up. Eventually they created a role for me in the honey facility, and this year I have taken on the position of Honey Operations Manager for Tahi honey. 99% of my time is now at the honey house jarring the best quality honey possible.”
Honey production is now a major activity on Tahi Estate. “When I got there they had 400-500 hives. Within a year that grew to 1000 hives and we now have 3000 hives – some here and others spread between Kaiwaka and Kaikohe. Our target is manuka so we lease sites, place hives there and then don’t move them. Because we are into conservation, we leave the bees plenty of winter honey so we don’t have to feed them sugar.”
Knox knew very little about the honey industry before working at Tahi Estate. “This has been huge learning curve for me. We learned about bees in the permaculture part of our horticulture course, but now I know more about the field side of honey production so can give more confident educated answers to people’s questions. I still have heaps to learn especially on the honey processing side.”
Helping Knox in the honey house at Tahi Estate are two admin staff, another full time helper, and two casual workers. John oversees the whole operation. There is also a café and a shop that are open seasonally with their own staff, and there are three eco-accommodation houses for holiday hire on the property.
Knox lives on the property and says he feels lucky and very happy to be at Tahi Estate. “I love that the job allows me to use my brain. I come from hospitality and retail where the skills and info are more quickly learnt. Here there is usually a challenge daily. We’re dealing with expensive equipment that doesn’t always work and we’re a long way out from Whangarei, so we need to be resourceful and organised.”
Knox – “NorthTec was a great training ground. I was impressed with the quality of the tutors. I was apprehensive at first but I learned a lot more than I expected and gained a lot from the level 4 course. I was asked whether I was interested to go on to the diploma, but at this stage my work commitment here is my priority. This place is in an expansion phase and my job is to keep taking quality honey from the frames and putting it in jars. I have a lot to offer here and this place has a lot to offer me - so I’d like to stay a while.”
"This course was perfect. We studied composting, re-vegetation, propagation, and growing food and it was great...
Since graduating, Patrick has been working on his propagation business plans and is undertaking further study to advance his computer skills.
“The NorthTec course helped me learn propagation, access useful literature and build a valuable set of contacts. I had been growing garlic for years and was looking at doing that more commercially so I needed to learn more about soil ecology. This course was perfect.”
“These new skills have helped me develop my business. I’m working to achieve a spray-free, organic and commercially-savvy propagation business.”