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Katie has come full circle from her childhood days: she grew up in Christchurch with a big family vegetable garden, left home to study and travel, and now lives in Lyttelton, studying organic horticulture at the BHU. Katie first saw the ads for the course about five years ago and made a mental note – but it wasn’t until 2013 that she had the time to go back to study.

“I always loved growing things but I have travelled a lot so I didn’t have the opportunity to pursue my interest in organics and growing until this year. I have had several small backyard vege gardens and did a permaculture course a few years ago and that whetted my appetite too.”

Katie has thoroughly enjoyed the course. “I really liked the sciency side – soils, microbiology, that side of things. Year One was great and very diverse – a good introduction to how plants and soils work, how to achieve good land management. There were some unexpected subjects that I really enjoyed too – such as bee keeping, shelter belts and worm farming.”

Year Two gave Katie the opportunity to consolidate her knowledge and build on what she had learnt in Year One. “One aspect of Year Two was studying one crop in depth – I chose garlic and it was great to find out all about it – what it likes in terms of soils; the diseases, how to cultivate and harvest. It also lets you see the viability of making money from horticulture.” In Year Two Katie also grew 30-40 other crops and had a small scale vege box scheme which she found to be fun and a good learning opportunity. “It was great to do that and have the support of the tutors and farm staff. You make mistakes and learn as you go.”

“The other courses available were also very worthwhile. I did short courses in farm fencing, ATV use, workshop skills and chainsaw use. Fencing or jobs needing a chainsaw I probably would have left to someone else but now I feel confident that I could manage these aspects of farming if need be.”

The practical component of the courses appealed to Katie and she thought there was a good balance of theory and practical. “I particularly liked propagation – now I know I can grow my own plants easily and cheaply. It’s fascinating to learn about cold stratification and other seed dormancy breaking techniques.”

“Growing will probably be an add-on to my occupation as a physio, rather than a full-time job. I really like having the skills to have a small ecological footprint and feel good about the way I live.”

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