We need more young people in horticulture and forestry

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The problem with those two sectors, and also with farming, is that the people currently involved in it are getting older by the day and there are not enough youngsters taking up those vocations.

vegetables_horticultureAs regards to the horticultural sector this problem has been highlighted in a recent report, entitled “Horticulture Matters”, by the Royal Horticultural Society and presented to the House of Commons on May 14, 2013.

Despite this, however, the British government is all but doing away with horticultural and agricultural studies and qualifications at general school level – as, according to a Minister, like term times based on the old agricultural pattern, they are outdated and academic studies are more important. Beats me where he thinks his food is going to come from. Then again, like most politicians, he does not appear to live in the real world and inhabits another universe.

Regardless of what the Minister may think and others young people, and not just those with bad academic achievements at school, need to be, if their interest is in the field, directed towards a career in horticulture (and agriculture and forestry) rather than being discouraged, as is the current practice, because it looks better in the league tables if people go to university rather than to vocational colleges or, the gods forbid, into apprenticeships in a trade, such as horticulture, agriculture or forestry.

Anyone who works in those trades can vouch for the fact that it is not a trade for the simple minded ones but requires, aside from interest and passion the acquisition of knowledge and that more or less all the working life.

The gardener, farmer and forester, in theory, never learns out as there will be new challenges to be dealt with each and every year, nay almost each and every day. And those trades are not just about working in gardens, on farms or in the woods; there is also plant breeding, diseases of plants and trees, etc. neither knowledge is something that comes to one in one's sleep. It requires constant awareness and study.

The challenges in all three trades, whether horticulture, agriculture or forestry, are immense, especially and including as regards to climate change and diseases that are emerging more than likely due to it.

Horticulture contributes £9 billion to the UK economy each year as an “industry” and I am sure that agriculture does some nice contribution to the UK economy also. Aside from that both, the former to some degree the latter all the way, feed us. But the studies for both are, according to the Minister, outdated.

Aside from that horticulture employs around 300,000 people in the UK, from crop growers and gardeners to scientists and turf specialists.

And this is not considering that horticulture gives us a degree of food security by providing a constant supply of safe and nutritious food. On top of that it is good for the environment in more way than one.

Farming and forestry too are important as without farming we have none of the other foods and without forestry out woodlands and forests would not be managed and fall into disrepair and decline, despite some misguided souls believing that Nature would do it all itself better than we. I have seen Mother Nature's gardening and woodland management and must disagree.

The country's gardeners (and related), farmers and foresters are getting older by the day (well, they would and will) and there are few young people entering the industries as a career. Schools are discouraging youngsters from taking up a vocation in horticulture, agriculture and forestry and this must change or we will be in deep trouble.

Horticulture matters, as does agriculture and forestry and we need new blood in those fields and we need those youngsters to begin training now.

© 2013