Incorporating agriculture into your horticultural career

Daniel Fuller

While horticulture is concerned with the cultivation of all plants, agriculture is concerned with cultivating edible crops as well as raising livestock. There are professional development opportunities in agriculture for horticulturists looking to practice their trade in new environments.

Working in agriculture doesn’t have to be forever, either. You might enjoy a change for a season, or you can use agricultural roles to travel the country and learn new skills that are applicable in amenity horticulture, landscaping and nursery work.

In episode 97 of the Plants Grow Here podcast, which is sponsored by Hort Journal Australia, I interviewed Andrew Whitelaw about agricultural job opportunities, and how they can complement a horticultural career. Along with his friend and colleague Matt Dalgeish, he’s a market analyst at Thomas Elder Markets, where they report on ag inputs like diesel, fertiliser, chemicals and also the produce they sell, such as vegetables, meat and wool, to give regular farmers access to the same information as the “big end of town”. They also produce an un-associated podcast called AgWatchers.

It’s no surprise that there’s been a shortage of backpackers working in Australia for the last couple of years, but food production can’t stop. Andrew mentioned that in order to attract Australian urban residents to make it out to the country, a lot of farms have had to become more attractive to workers.

A dingy ‘donga’ (an outback shed) with a bucket for bathing is no longer acceptable accommodation. Instead, you can expect high quality portable housing with wifi and proper showers when you work and stay on-farm. It’s a bit like working on an oil rig or in the mines, you’re able to save up cash without paying for accommodation or meals, and a few years in ag can help you get ahead financially.

Depending on the roles you pursue, you may need to move on every few months because the seasons dictate a lot of agricultural work. However, because you would be pocketing so much cash, Andrew says it’s possible to take time off between seasonal roles to enjoy the finer things in life.

There are a lot of exchangeable skills between horticulture and agriculture, and people that prefer to work outdoors and are willing to put in the hard work to get the job done, will feel at home in either industry. Upgrade your horticultural resume by gaining experience in fruit tree pruning, soil testing, tractor work, and responsible chemical use.

You don’t necessarily have to take a horticultural job like pruning grapes or preparing soil, either. If you prove you are leadership material, there are opportunities to gain management experience to give your resume a further boost.

Working in ag for one season out of the year, can benefit your life in a couple of ways. Firstly, even though you may still be paying the rent or a mortgage while you are working on-farm, you are still likely to be making better money than you would in your horticultural role.

Secondly, you are getting out of your normal routine for an extended period. Make no mistake, you’ll be working hard, but sometimes it’s nice to change things a little bit. You can escape the QLD summer to work down south, or vice versa if you can’t face another southern state winter.

Some people find they don’t need a stable home, and the open road calls to them. It’s possible to support a nomadic lifestyle while working on farms around the country, and it isn’t just young backpackers that are attracted to this lifestyle either. The term “grey nomads” refers to retirees that travel the country in campervans or caravans, and they are a key part of the agricultural workforce.

Whether you are looking for a pay increase, a change of scenery, a chance to upskill, or a way to fund your nomadic lifestyle, an agricultural role may fit nicely into your career path. Your skills as a horticulturist are transferable to an agricultural context, and now is a great time to give it a go because farmers are begging for workers to replace backpackers.

Daniel Fuller

Plants Grow Here

M: 042 6169 708

E: hello@plantsgrowhere.com

W: www.plantsgrowhere.com

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