The new Certificate III in Production Horticulture course at Wollongbar TAFE kicked off in February, with 22 participants signing up to learn all about best practice and innovative growing methods in macadamias.
From new macadamia farmers to those who have done it all their lives and a lawyer looking for a change, each student is taking something different from the course as they are able to put what they learn to practical use.
Michelle Bouquet owns a 40-acre macadamia farm at Tregeagle and has been farming for six years.
“It certainly was a challenge to start with,” said Michelle.
“We sort of jumped in the deep end, straight into harvest when we first moved there. So we've been learning as we go.”
Michelle said the course is helping her gain plenty of information and sharing the same with the other students.
“So far we’ve learned about growing crops in general, not just macadamias, but how there's a lot of similarities across different growing industries,” she said.
“And also applying some of the knowledge that you have on farm and then being able to apply the new knowledge and try and put it into practice on farm as well.
“What's been really valuable is the learning is timed with what's happening on the farm. We've just learned about harvesting and we’re pretty much into harvest season now.”
By the end of the course Michelle hopes to be able to manage the farm better and increase productivity.
Anthony Pidcock has taken over the family farm of 7,000 macadamia trees.
“We’ve been there over 20 years, so it’s a very well-established farm. I’m taking over from when my father left off when he passed away a couple of years ago.
“My mother and I and my brother want to take it over and run with it and we’re basically in a situation where now we have to do all sorts of things with canopy management, orchard floor management as the trees are quite big.”
Anthony said he is keen to learn about new ways of managing the farm.
“We’ve got about four or five blocks and they’re all different varieties,” he said.
“We’ve got some of the old, mainly Hawaiian varieties. I want to start mapping the farm better and working out where all these actual varieties are.”
Anthony said the course has opened up new ideas for him including in the areas of sustainable farming, biodiversity and pest management.
Ariane Caruso-Kern travels all the way from just outside Port Macquarie to attend the course at Wollongbar TAFE. Her family own a farm with 1,000 macadamia trees and are new to the industry.
“I read about this course and thought it was a great opportunity, not having much experience or knowledge about farming in general and macadamias in particular,” she said.
Ariane said she enjoys the mixture of class room work and practical application as they visit various farms as part of the course work.
“(The course) is giving me the basics, but then it’s giving me a bit more to think about as well, sort of longer term, what direction to go into. I am hoping that next year I can competently run the farm.”
Rodd Peters has Neptune farm between Bangalow and Newrybar and has 40 ha with 8,500 trees. He is new to the industry and continues to work as a lawyer to bring in some off-farm income.
Rodd says he learns something new every day at the course.
“(I’d like to) learn the best new practices. I’m very interested in regenerative agriculture,” he said.
“My takeaway from today is I’m going to shake the trees. I’ve been thinking about doing that and talking to people. A couple of guys on the course do tree shaking as a second business. It brings an end to your harvesting because it gets all the nuts off the tree.”
The Certificate III in Production Horticulture is running from February to November (one day per week) this year and is suitable for new and experienced growers.
The course will include guest speakers and farm visits, highlighting state-of-the-art production and looking at new technologies and advancements. Key topics will include orchard establishment, optimum growth and production methods, soil health, pests and diseases and crop regulation. Participants will also complete these accreditation units: Chemical Accreditation Certificate, Safe Farm Vehicle (Tractors, Side by sides) and Chainsaw Operation Accreditation.
For more information contact the AMS on 1800 262 426 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This website has been partly funded by Hort Innovation, using the macadamia research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government.