The Next Generation
Kate Miln (BSC Massey University)
Production Assistant, Gellert Nurseries Ltd
Kate Miln was born in Auckland and raised in Pukekohe, South Auckland. Kate grew up surrounded by Horticulture and now finds herself learning the ropes as an assistant grower (production assistant) for Gellert Nurseries in Karaka, South Auckland.
Kate (22) attended Buckland Primary and then went to Tuakau College. When Kate finished college, she decided to attend Massey University in Palmerston North, to do a biological science degree, she did not know it would become a Bachelor of Science in Plant Science until 6 months after her studies began. Luckily for the horticulture industry, while in her first year at Massey, Kate did a plant biology paper, it was from then she decided to do her degree in plant science. Kate spent an extra 6 months at University, as her slight change of direction meant she had to complete several more papers to achieve her degree.
When she attended Tuakau College horticulture was not promoted or recognised at the same level as other subjects. In the New Zealand education system, you could only gain a ‘unit standard’ for doing horticulture studies not ‘Merit’ or ‘Excellence’ grades on offer in other subjects which were more beneficial for gaining entry into University. Kate now understands that our industry is in need of more horticulture workers but said when she was at college “it was not promoted enough, this may have changed since I was at high school, I hope so at least.”
During her last year at Massey University Kate started looking for possible job opportunities. At the career hub at Massey, Kate came across an advertisement for the position of Production Assistant at Gellert Nurseries. Kate applied for the position, was flown from Palmerston North to Auckland, by Gellert Nurseries owner Steve Gellert, to be interviewed just before the weeks leading up to her final exams. Kate made an extremely good impression and had the necessary skills to be offered a full-time position. Only three weeks after completing her degree she started her first day at Gellert Nurseries. Steve Gellert needs to be congratulated for having the foresight to hire a student straight out of university.
Kate is learning specialty irrigation techniques used for growing young plants.
“Massey was a great place to learn the theoretical side of growing”. Learning about plant physiology, insects, diseases and chemicals were some of the fundamental papers needed to complete here degree. Other papers included: Controlling weeds, soil science papers, postharvest horticulture and basic horticulture papers that covered much of the growing practise and industry information. The theory learnt at Massey was excellent but the practical side is a totally new challenge. Learning how to use an environmental computer, deal with staff and the day to day running of a growing operation is very different to what she anticipated. Having the vast experience of production manager, Steve Hadley, to learn from is a great opportunity for Kate.
Kate with one of the eggplant crops she is responsible for. Kate is in charge of monitoring the EC and PH as well as recording growth rates, checking and monitoring insect pressure and checking root health, amongst other tasks.
In her past time Kate loves going to the beach and swimming, she is an avid reader and reads almost anything. Kate has a bright future in horticulture, she knows there is still a lot to learn and that this will come with time and experience.
Kate is learning about the effects of lights on plants. These are a recent edition to the nursery and provide guaranteed all year-round assurance plants will be growing under optimum conditions.