Monday, 11 August 2014

Career in horticulture? Featuring The Young Horts and a 3 year old.

Something has come to my attention. I should really not be at all surprised by this thing but what it has done is make me look at horticultural education and think about why we are losing the skills in this country to be excellent nursery folk, growers and plants people.
Recently as part of Incredible Edible Bristol, I've been visiting primary schools who want to begin or get support with growing food on their sites. I support this wholeheartedly as there's little as powerful as growing something to eat when you're a child, as I found aged 3. However what I have found in the schools that already have gardens is that not every child has access to the garden, and often the garden is used for calming purposes for children with a range of issues, but mainly behavioural. This made me ask what this was putting across the the rest of the pupils and strangely it didn't take much to work out the message being portrayed. 
So gardening, as horticulture is seen by these children, is already side lined for those who are struggling in one way, shape or form. To me that's not just a sad state of affairs but also a dreadful missed opportunity for our future high fliers in horticulture, as well as for those who might not be highly academic but for whom horticulture in one way, shape or form, could make a good and steady career. But no one wants the job that's seen as being for the kids with issues do they? And the answer is a resounding no.
Ask teens about what they want to do in their future lives and few will even be aware of the huge variety of jobs that come under the banner of horticulture. Gardening is something they avoid doing, or that grandad does on his allotment, not a career surely? But when you mention sales, science, growing or writing they prick ears up immediately, and will then tell you that no one, in most cases, has ever put horticulture forward as a career choice. In fact often even farming hasn't been mentioned by career advisors.
So here's where I tell you a tale. Aged 3 a little girl grew peas and sweet peas with her next door neighbour, and was so proud to take them home to her mummy and new baby brother. As time went on she grew more and more with her neighbour, got involved with her Grandmas's garden, and even began to look after a garden at school, to the gentle amusement of all. She went off to university, studied art and grew her degree show, which was full of plants grown from seed from every continent. She went on to have a reasonably successful career in catering whilst rushing home each day to tend garden and allotment. And for all this time no one had mentioned that the thing she lived for could be a career. 
That little girl was me. I was lucky, as I realised and was able to make the, really scary, leap and ended up working at a wonderful place that ensured I got the training needed and pushed me to be successful and believed in me. However, what if that hadn't happened and for how many is it an impossible dream due to financial constraints brought about by careers that are successful if unfulfilling.
The answer? Well I'm not sure I have it but growing as part of the schools curriculum has to be a start I should imagine as well as encouraging outdoor learning that inevitably brings in the outdoor environment to the curriculum in a way that uses nature and plants as learning tools. But more importantly, opening a discussion with children and young people so that they are aware of the possibilities. Having watched with deep interest the rise of the YoungHorts on Twitter and the effect they are having on the industry, I hope to see this initiative fly, and for these young people to be the horticultural ambassadors for future generations. 
Apparently by the age of 7 we all have come across and settled on the thing that will hold our attention for the rest of our lives. I was three when then happened and yet all through school, as a child that was academic and capable, no mention of anything practical came about and no adult ever encouraged me other than my neighbour and my grandma. So please be aware of the children you might be influencing as you garden with them, and make sure they know there are career paths open to them in horticulture and an industry that really would love them to turn that interest into a successful and fulfilling career.
Tiny Trowels or our horticultural future?


  1. Sara this is a beautiful post and I wholeheartedly agree with what you are saying. At my primary school we all had little tiny patches of garden, behind the classrooms, but the problem was we never really saw the results because no one watered it in the long summer break, so our mini gardens were dry dust when we returned and we lost interest. Funny what you remember fifty years on. x Joanna

  2. Keeping the workplace challenging and engaging is important. Happy employees are productive ones, and for many the same routine of punching the time clock everyday gets old fast.

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