In February we welcomed the arrival of our new development officer, Helen Sessions. This is a milestone for CIHort and we are very excited about this full-time appointment. Helen will be reviewing our operation, delivering on our Chartership status, and making CIHort more accessible to our younger members in this digital age. Helen will be representing CIHort at strategic level with Government and with all other interest groups in the horticulture sector. Please do join me in welcoming Helen to our Chartered Institute.
‘Education Education Education’ was a famous speech given in 1997 by the then UK Labour Party leader Tony Blair, but we could never have imagined the seismic change in FE and HE horticulture provision over these years. This is equally mirrored by the reduction in near market horticulture R&D with the loss of ADAS, Experimental Horticultural Stations and University Departments of Horticulture.
National Certificate, National Diploma, Higher National Diploma, and an array of undergraduate offerings have been largely replaced by NVQ’s, BASIS, Foundation Degrees, gardening charity awards. Only one long established Batchelor of Science degree at Writtle College remains. Add to this a pandemic and it is obvious to many observers that our Horticulture Education is going to need significant support and shoring up from this Chartered Institute and Industry colleagues. To maintain our profession and, in particular our Chartered status, we need a fully engaged and supported Further and Higher Education programme.
To this end, the Chartered Institute of Horticulture will fund and establish a review of Horticulture Education provision in the UK and Ireland. The aim will be to review the existing education offering, to prioritise the needs of students and industry at FE & HE levels and support our existing successful education establishments. If we don’t address the subject of Education as an industry collective, then our profession and Chartered Institute will suffer. If you would like to contribute to this process, then please do get in touch with the secretariat: email@example.com. We would like to hear from all interested parties.
Last week was another defining moment in the long history of Horticulture R&D in the UK with a familiar yes /no vote on the funding of Horticulture R&D. In precise terms this is the vote on the ‘statute levy’ paid by horticulture growers. This levy collected by statute legislation and administered by AHDB is channelled into near market research shaped by growers and for growers. Some sectors (Soft Fruit) overwhelmingly voted to retain the levy and others (Ornamentals) voted overwhelmingly to reject the levy. Only last week Defra secretary of State, George Eustace announced that the vote would be respected, raising concern that the horticulture research conducted by AHDB is now working on a timeline for exit. This has a strong familiarity with the BREXIT vote and now industry professionals are wondering what on earth has taken place and did we really vote to end all semblance of Horticultural research and who will conduct the horticulture research for Horticulture UK Plc in the future. I am absolutely sure that many of the ‘levy reform voters’ had valid points, but the consequences of this vote are profound for our industry. I do hope the ‘growers better levy group’ can rescue the situation and re-align horticulture research for the benefit of all growers.
In Ireland, Horticulture R&D takes on greater significance to the national economy and they are a great example of what a small nation can achieve in the horticulture research and marketing arena. A strong commitment at governmental level is of course the key to securing relevant near market funding. This co-ordinated approach provides a platform for produce with a local provenance, improved food security and long term sustainable growing. Teagasc and Bord Bia seems to achieve that balance of supporting horticulture at all levels while delivering relevant R&D and marketing programmes for growers. A great example of a collective approach funded centrally by government.
Gerald Bonner CHort, FCIHort