“You could just about write down your dream job and then find it within horticulture,” says Erin Atkinson, the first woman to win the national title of Young Fruit Grower of the Year.
The opportunities the industry offers, especially for young people, is the reason Erin is supporting the Katikati Innovative Horticulture initiative, which has attracting more young people into the industry among its aims.
Katikati Innovative Horticulture is fundraising to build and operate a $500,000 facility for Katikati College’s Innovative Horticulture Programme. The centre will also be a venue where training providers run courses for young people not in education, employment or training and assist them into employment, as well as adults seeking to upskill in horticulture.
“The project will support the growing demand for skilled workers in the horticultural industry by providing young people with the skills and knowledge that the industry needs, improving their employability,” says Katikati Innovative Horticulture manager Hilary Johnson.
“Erin is a shining example of what can be achieved in the industry and is a great role model for other young people to follow.”
Erin, who won the Bay of Plenty Young Fruit Grower of the Year and then the national Fruit Grower of the Year awards in 2017, is today an ApataGROW manager, responsible for the management of 250ha of kiwifruit and 20 staff.
“I often speak to college students about what the industry offers. They could fly the drones which monitor crops, be the ones who invent robotic picking and packing machines, the advisors who visit growers to help them achieve better harvest results, or work hands-on in the outdoors picking, pruning and managing orchards, or in packhouses packing and monitoring fruit quality.
“There are job opportunities for people at whatever stage they are at in their lives, with the chance to upskill when they are ready. Often there is the flexibility to work around the needs of young families too.”
Young people are needed and valued within the industry, which, in the kiwifruit industry, is dominated by a generation of older orchard owners, says Erin.
That’s among the reasons she endorses the work of the Katikati Innovative Horticulture Trust, which has engaged with major industry and regional stakeholders, and all have shown overwhelming support for the initiative.
With a full business plan, the trust has support from Zespri, NZKGI, Priority One, industry leaders, Katikati horticultural businesses – and financial pledges for the new facility. To donate or learn more, go to: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/innovative-horticulture-is-the-future https://www.facebook.com/kihproject Or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org