This past week I had the great pleasure of attending the Young Horticulturist of the Year competition, organised by the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, which was held in Ardgillan Castle in North Dublin.
By Gareth Austin
Sadly I’m a few years of being a ‘Young Horticulturist’, but one Donegal man who was in the thick of the action was Conor Gallinagh, the Stranorlar man came second in this all-Ireland competition.
I caught up with Conor for a chat after the competition…
You’re a 4th year student in UCD studying Horticulture, what attracted you to Horticulture?
Coming from a diverse background in horticulture, agriculture and forestry, I was always involved in it from knee high. Either with my granny at the florist or with grandad and dad on the nursery and the farm. This passion soon developed further and became very interested in the industries. Although I was almost destined to a career in agriculture after becoming one of the Irish Farmers Journal, Young Farmers of the Year after competing at the Heifer and Hogget Competition in 2010. But when it come closer to deciding my future career, I guess horticulture won out over pursuing agriculture or forestry. I decided UCD was the best possible place for me to develop my interests further as it offered a level 8, honours degree. My passion has excelled over the last year or two and I have become more actively involved within the industry especially through social media.
Why is it important that young students and horticulturists get involved with the YoungHort?
Networking is essential in such a small industry within Ireland. Getting to meet likeminded people which share the same interest and passion as you is great. These are people that either you may require for knowledge, employment or potential customers.
It also gives young horticulturists an organisations to be part of and become actively involved to help promote and share the industry.
Has your engagement with the competition benefited your professional/personal development?
I believe the competition has benefited both professionally and personally, getting to know students from the different colleges and share our story with one another is a great. The competition also encourages and helps with the progression within the horticulture by testing you on your knowledge but also allows you to learn from the array of questions asked.
It also helps build on and share your passion of horticulture by meeting with the various horticulture students who are studying an array of courses within horticulture form design to nursery production to a horticulture degree.
I would highly recommend any young horticulturist out there to take part and the great thing about is that you don’t even have to be part of a college/course. Go for it, enjoy yourself and meet fellow horts.
What about the competition do you most dislike?
I think everyone one would agree that the fact that you are sitting in front of a quiet large audience which can be quite nerving wracking. Then being asked some very difficult questions can add to the nerve factor. At the same time though I think this helps to improve your self-confidence and public speaking.
You’re obviously a bright fellow, what’s your future after UCD?
I’m a horticulture blogger and this is one particular area that would love to pursue and develop further. I believe it would be a great way to inspire a new generation of horts.
I would also like to become a horticulture educator and be able to teach the next generation of passionate young horticulturist.
As I stated previously I come from a background in horticulture and would love to get more involved on the farm and tree nursery once I have completed my studies
As a YoungHort, what are the challenges facing young people entering the Horti industry?
The lack awareness of what a career in horticulture can hold is discouraging many young people away from it. This is to do with the poor image that is commonly associated with the industry which tends to be seen in many cases as a low skill and low earnings career. In truth the industry has many options and diverse opportunities from lecturing to sportsturf to landscaping to name a few. There need to be more encouragement from a school level up and to make people more aware of the industry.
In Donegal how can we engage more people with Horticulture and raise awareness of the importance of gardening for promoting good mental health?
As I stated above the image of horticulture has to be re-jazzed and then helped to promote horticulture for its true value, for the health benefits it possess, the potential career opportunities and the many other values it holds. This can be achieved through the different medias, newspaper, radio, social as well as talks and workshops to enlighten the public to different aspects such as fruit growing, herb uses etc.
An interesting concept which I heard from one of the fellow young horticulturist yesterday as a career prospect was horticulture therapy. This is an interesting concept and could have massive potential with the ongoing concern in regards mental health
Conor would love to hear from any inspiring horticulturists or perhaps someone is considering a career in horticulture, so do get in contact with him either through any of his social media pages; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (A Horticulturist’s View).Tags: