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Growing expertise through trainee programmes

Growing expertise through trainee programmes

Growing expertise through trainee programmes

For Hannah Greaves, commencing work with PGG Wrightson three years ago has exposed her to a career pathway into horticulture.

Having completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science from Lincoln University, Hannah arrived back in her hometown of Hastings to commence a role as a Customer Service Representative (CSR) for Fruitfed Supplies.

“I wanted to work for a company that invested heavily in training and upskilling its staff. When I started at Fruitfed Supplies I could see myself having access to opportunities within the horticultural sector,” says Hannah.

“As a CSR I got a thorough understanding of the products we sold along with getting to know the growers who regularly visited the store. This experience provided a good foundation for me to move onto further training.”

Hannah entered the PGG Wrightson Trainee Horticultural Representative programme which saw her spend 18 months working alongside experienced Technical Horticultural Representative (THR), Gary Speers, who acted as her mentor.

“The time spent working with Gary was invaluable as he is so knowledgeable. I got a greater understanding of the THR role working alongside him, looking at, for example, the pests and diseases affecting a crop, learning about the more technical aspects of the role including making spray recommendations to growers as well as being able to build relationships with Gary’s customers.”

Hannah’s desire to be offered a permanent THR role saw her jump at the chance to complete the PGG Wrightson Academy programme last year. This programme is focused on expanding employee’s knowledge base and growing expertise within a particular area of the business. As a part of this programme, Hannah completed PGG Wrightson’s in-house NZQA accredited, National Certificate in Rural Servicing (Level 4). Her hard work while completing this programme was rewarded, winning the Academy’s Dux Award.

Now in 2021, and having accepted a permanent role as a THR, what Hannah loves most about horticulture is growing. By that she means, “being involved in the start of a growing season and seeing the crop grow through to harvesting. It is great to see the results growers achieve.”

Hannah is primarily involved in the pipfruit industry with apples her favourite crop. “It’s a challenging crop with lots of market requirements. It’s also the biggest crop in the Hawke’s Bay so I’m lucky to have lots of really knowledgeable people around me to learn from.”

The other aspect of her role that she loves is her interactions with growers. “It’s great being able to help growers achieve their goals for their crops and their businesses.”

The steep learning curve involved in becoming a THR is made easier by Fruitfed Supplies’ technical team. Key information, Hannah says, is delivered to the horticultural representatives via many channels including, “visiting trial blocks when a product is close to being registered for use in New Zealand, as well through our pipfruit crop sector group where technical team members will update us ready for the season ahead.”

As she spends more time in the pipfruit industry, Hannah acknowledges there are plenty of good things happening. “Lots of new varieties of pipfruit are being developed along with new growing systems being designed to help maximise land space. The horticultural industry is also really good at promoting itself and encouraging young people to become part of it.”

Hannah values that her role within Fruitfed Supplies allows her to be involved within the wider horticultural industry. She attends the Hawke’s Bay Grower of the Year competition and along with fellow THR, Jordan Cox, both act as judges at the Fruitfed Supplies station where this year they’ll be testing contestants on their knowledge of pests and diseases affecting horticultural crops.

Hannah’s advice for young people keen to join the horticultural industry, particularly women, is to “grab the opportunities, as there are plenty out there!”