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“Last year I was close to burnout in my eleventh year in a corporate office living in Mt Maunganui. I turned 30 and decided it was time to move home to Whangarei and start afresh doing something that I wanted and living a more sustainable lifestyle. When both my parents got sick, it tipped the balance and the journey since then to sell up and move has happened fast. My rent is now a quarter of what it was and my outgoings are tiny.”
“This course is giving me the confidence to know I can have my own business and it has opened my mind to ways I can work for myself. Because the classes are three days week 9-3pm, I can use the rest of the time to implement what I learn on the property that is now my home.”
“I’ll may study Sustainable Rural Development when I finish this course and that will help with setting up my own business. The possibilities are exciting.”
“The bigger picture for me is to create an ideal lifestyle being as self-sufficient and organic as possible in a natural more relaxed environment. Anyone doing this course for work may not be expecting the impact it can have on your life. I’ve found it opens up a greater perspective and takes you on a journey of self-growth and discovery. I love it.”
Iwi - Ngati Wai
Hapū - Ngati Taka and Pakuharakiki.
I love how relaxed and flexible the course is. It is hands-on and self-paced and we get to take on our own projects...
“This course is giving us access to so many resources like seeds, plant material, potting mix and the use of the facilities. My partner and I are developing family land and we’re keen on living and promoting food sovereignty and sustainability.”
“We’ve been living overseas but I’m originally from here and I love how relaxed and flexible the course is. It is hands-on and self-paced and we get to take on our own projects here. My sister for example is converting the corner of a conventional orchard into a food forest. It’s exciting to be part of. The tutors are very knowledgeable and we’re swapping seed and plant material now amongst the students.”
“I’ll go onto the next level after this and the dream is to grow our own food. I also want to have a positive impact on people around me and give them the knowledge and resources to feed themselves and build their own houses.”
The dream is to take the best possible care of our whenua out there where we live, and to pass that knowledge on for...
“I’m retired now and help look after the Papa Kainga garden up the road from the marae so it’s great to be learning more about plants and sustainable ways of taking care of them. It’s really different being back in a learning environment but I’m loving it and the students and tutors are fantastic. I find the botanical names are still a challenge but that’s good for me.”
“I love mixing with the different people here, learning different ways of doing things, and learning about the plants and planting times. We all bring and swap plants too. The whole class came down to the marae and had landscaping suggestions - particularly in the area where we have a lot of native plants.”
“I especially enjoyed the course field trips to the sub-tropical gardens and nursery in Matapouri and the tropical fruit orchard near Parua Bay. It’s a real inspiration going out and seeing what people are creating.”
“I’m now starting to utilize what we’re learning and I love knowing how to look after Papatūānuku in a sustainable way. We’re using what we’ve got in our immediate environment and not wasting things. The dream is to take the best possible care of our whenua out there where we live, and to pass that knowledge on for others to do the same.”
Being able to see the produce you’ve grown, taste the flavour, and be part of living in a sustainable way is what I’m...
“Being able to see the produce you’ve grown, taste the flavour, and be part of living in a sustainable way is what I’m here for. I was working in the trucking industry for many years but it was time to come home to the land here.”
“I was already a keen grower but I wanted to broaden my understanding and knowledge and my cousin recommended the course because he had just finished it. It’s been a hard adjustment exercising parts of my brain that have been asleep for a long time but I’ve got great support from the tutors and students and I’m loving it. Once a week we all get together and have a feast from the garden we’ve grown.”
“One of my challenges is learning to have patience with other land users that are not like-minded about sustainable practices. I’m learning to negotiate and collaborate and compromise.”
“I really enjoy watching other people realize what they’re capable of. Our tutor is skilled at getting the best out of other people and he sees that I have that too. He has surprised me by suggesting that I upskill and step up to become a tutor.”
“So I’ll go on and do level 4 and 5 here then my tutoring ticket. I’m excited to think I can help people push past their doubts and give things a go. Seeing someone believe in themselves is enough to brighten my day.”
I’m discovering I have a surprising interest in biological control and Integrated Pest Management. I’m fascinated...
“This is a fast paced course with lots of different aspects ranging from growing, to irrigation systems, to grafting and propagation. I now have a house on half an acre and two children to support after a marriage break-up, so I’m hoping it will give me ideas for my future.”
“I was running seven acres organically previously but had big gaps in my knowledge so I like that this course is comprehensive - including field trips to olive groves, landscaped projects and conservation properties.”
“I’m discovering I have a surprising interest in biological control and Integrated Pest Management. I’m fascinated with the idea of breeding parasitic wasps and ladybirds and it’s great knowing there are companies here doing that now.”
“Balancing study, my part time work, and my family is challenging but the tutors are accommodating and the fact that it is a three-day-a week course makes it workable. The student support services here are absolutely fantastic and have cleared the roadblocks I had around studying as a solo parent.”
“We also have a varied and sociable class celebrating things like birthdays, and we grow raised bed food crops that we can take home to our families.”
“I want to be as self-sufficient as possible on our section plus I want a career in horticulture. The dream is to be self-employed where I live by starting my own company in something related to biological control services.”
I love the touch of the soil and being amongst the smell and growth of the plants.
“I was working in hot-houses with palms in Auckland then moved up here and have been working in hot-houses and gardens. I already have the CV and the references but it’s time now to get the ticket to validate the experience and open more opportunities.”
“As soon as my daughter saw this course on Facebook, I came down and signed up. I love the touch of the soil and being amongst the smell and growth of the plants. We have a knowledgeable tutor who takes time to explain things and has a beautiful communication style with the students. He has the patience to help me with the theory and botanical names that are a challenge.”
“What we are learning is uplifting, and my passion for plants and their processes will get me through any challenges. I especially enjoy collecting seed and propagating. I didn’t know how it was done but now it means I can collect seed and cuttings and create plants for free. I love putting something in the earth and watching it flourish. Creating beauty is healing.”
“By getting a horticulture qualification I’ll be able to get a job doing what I love with more pay and more responsibility. Through work experience for the course, I’m already working part time at a local nursery. I also have some land on the gum-fields that I want to gradually plant up with what I’ve propagated and make it look like paradise.”
“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.”
The practicality of the NorthTec horticulture course was really good training for this work. Although I had a good...
“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.”
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.”