SIT2LRN facilitator Lynne Warden’s lifelong journey into teaching horticulture had its roots while working in a garden centre on the outskirts of Invercargill.
“I found I really enjoyed working with plants and developing skills in landscape design so I didn’t really consider it a ‘job’ at all.”
Lynne was able increase her knowledge through practical experience and distance learning study, skills she is passing on to the next generation of horticulturalists, and also putting into practice on her three-hectare block in Central Otago.
“Our fruit trees include 25 apricot trees, 30 greengages, 30 apples, 20 olives, 20 feijoas and a fig tree. Not surprisingly, all of this – along with four horses and some sheep – keeps myself and partner Phil quite busy.”
Lynne studied physical education at the University of Otago, before moving to Australia for a few years. When she returned, she moved to the family farm near Invercargill and raised three sons.
She decided PE wasn’t quite for her, so she took on a role at the garden centre, which ultimately led her to the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT). She was asked if she could tutor at the Invercargill City Council nursery, where SIT owned a small classroom onsite.
“There was a wonderful partnership at the time, with the nursery itself and Crops for Southland – a venture to encourage farmers to broaden their income from a varied source of crops – operating next door.”
Crops for Southland grew sample crops of about 30 alternative species – including some not available in New Zealand – but were thought to have potential for commercial production in Southland.
At the time, SIT horticulture students were involved with setting up hydroponic systems and propagating crops for the Invercargill City Council parks and reserves, and were able to work alongside the nursery and Crops for Southland staff.
She initially taught hydroponics and glasshouse control for SIT at the nursery.
Unfortunately, class numbers dropped to unsustainable levels in the early 2000s, so it was decided to take the theory content out of the courses and put it together as an online/distance learning course, which gave more people from around the country the opportunity to study something they were interested in.
“The rest, as they say, is history,” Lynne said.
“We were one of the first learning institutes to provide distance learning courses in horticulture and landscaping and this proved extremely popular.”
Lynne relishes the opportunity to share her knowledge with students and takes great delight in seeing how they progress and grow in confidence.
“It really is a pleasure teaching and helping students graduate with New Zealand Certificates in Horticulture, which many use to go on and further their study or venture into their own business.”
Receiving feedback and knowing how students used the knowledge they had gained through their SIT2LRN study was extremely satisfying, Lynne said.
“Many simply enjoy having new knowledge that helps them in their own back yard, but many go on to use their skills to help their business grow.”