Horticultural center about to bloom

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Hilary Johnson (right) with Louise Buckley in the area where the new horticultural facility will be. Photo / Rebecca Mauger

An ongoing fundraising campaign has paid off and the Katikati Horticulture Center is ready to take root.

It’s been a long time coming, says Hilary Johnson, Katikati Innovative Horticulture project manager, but the planned center has a start date and groundbreaking will open on September 12.

The center will be a purpose-built horticultural facility on the grounds of Katikati College where budding horticulturalists can learn all aspects of the industry.

The idea was born years ago, says Hilary.

”We are right in the middle of horticulture country and so for a very long time we thought this would be a great way to educate children. There are so many opportunities in the job market for them and at a higher level…we should make our kids part of that community and not let them all go.

”The industry is crying out for people and skilled people because the rest can eventually be replaced by automation, so what we’ve done over the last four and a half years has transformed horticulture from being basically a program from low-level gardening to a functional, interdisciplinary multi-course that children can take to access jobs, polytechnic, university or internships.”

There are 115 senior students enrolled in horticulture this year, up from 12 to 15 about four years ago, she says. Horticulture is now an attractive option.

Principal Louise Buckley says horticulture at Katikati College is much more than gardening.

”The skills they acquire are at all levels. Yesterday I saw students learning how to do orchid tissue culture. Students go on field trips, they learn about agribusiness, robotics, plant science, and marketing and logistics to name a few…and the skills they learn are truly transferable. ”

Already the old potting shed has been demolished. A very old classroom that cannot be reused will be demolished, and a small shed and some garden beds will make way for construction.

The facility will be 240 m² with a covered balcony of 60 m² as outdoor space.
The open-plan construction includes laboratories, a multi-purpose area, a kitchen, washrooms, an office and a small group work area” so it’s really flexible because what we do in horticulture is based on student choice – what they choose to learn so there’s a lot of flexible grouping.

The center has been a long-standing vision for the trust and has offered businesses and the community, including the erection of a sign with a thermometer showing the funds raised.

Design of the Katikati innovative horticulture project.  Photo / Provided
Design of the Katikati innovative horticulture project. Photo / Provided

Their goal was $615,000 and they reached their goal.

Hilary says everyone continues to give throughout the closures, which has brought credit to the local community. Costs have increased since they started fundraising, so they need to keep going, she says.

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