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Paula Walker decided to study Horticulture at NorthTec because it is something she has always had an interest in.
“I’ve tried to grow things at home however I wasn’t getting very far with them; studying at NorthTec was the only option I found to study horticulture locally in Kaitaia.
“I think it’s very important to grow locally. This course can help us get to the stage where we can supply local industries (with produce and trained labour) and also take the skills home, grow for our own families and live sustainably. I try and grow everything I need myself.
“It was important for me that this course balanced hands-on, practical work and classroom activities. We go out on work placement which is great to get out of the classroom and put what we’ve learnt into practice. We are able to see the industry processes and put something on our CV with relevant experience for an employer to see; especially what we learnt on the Grow Safe course – it’s an awesome step up for anyone who wants to get into the industry.
“My favourite part of the course, besides growing things, has been the friendships made within the class. There’s 12 of us in the class with the same interest and we all help each other. The tutor is also really friendly and bends over backwards to help us all. Doing the course and work experience has inspired me to take steps to plant my own commercial orchard.”
Paula’s advice to students thinking about getting into the horticulture industry is: “Come to NorthTec to study because it’s supportive, there are easy steps to follow, you can learn a lot from the tutors who are passionate about different things, and, it’s fun!”
“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.”