Take someone who hasn't driven anything in twenty years and give them the keys to a tractor. You should have seen the look on their face. Yet, that is what Horticulture should be, the training of others and in areas they may never have thought of before. That is our remit in the Hopwood garden to challenge and to support, and we couldn't do that without some fantastic students who are driven to be the best they can.
So, on a lovely autumnal day we gathered around a tractor to learn about three point linkage, diesel starters and PTOs (power take off). It sounds like an petrol heads day. These students are at level 3 in Horticulture and training on a tractor is important for them and any potential employees. A tractor on a large site is necessary, you can't be shoving all the orchard prunings into the back of a hatchback - not only does that breach health and safety (this is where we can hear several of our level 3's doing that Len Goodman voice and saying, 'Health & Safety' as if saying, 'Seven!') it will mess up your back seat and boot - a tractor allows you to fulfill on site jobs faster and safer, so that manure that needs heaping up is safer to do in a tractor once the heap is larger than you. Frankly, you do not want to be buried alive in manure, not only could it knock you out and kill you, it will cook you to boot. That will not be a pretty open casket at any funeral. Likewise, you never leave keys in a tractor and then scramble underneath it to fix something because someone else could start it, and again, bad funeral to attend if the coffin is open. So, getting to grips with the basics of a tractor is good for all. Our tractor has a bucket scoop on the front and part of stopping the tractor involves dropping the bucket scoop onto the ground, why? Well, tractor brakes have been known to fail and the weight of that scoop could save you. Either way, this course builds on our knowledge of work done on commercial farms and now means students can build up the skills to use on the site. It may sound all doom and gloom, all health and safety, but it was the sheer fun of others discovering tractors, the smiles on their faces when they jumped down. Horticulture is often more than lawns, imagine how fast you could do a suburban lawn with a tractor? Health & Safety! Yes, Len, we heard you.
You will notice when we photograph the students at the Hopwood garden we do so from behind. This is to preserve their anonymity and to safeguard them. All the work on the gardens is being done by these students, and we Life on Pig Row applaud them for listening to us, being patient with us and driving this garden site forward. Thank you.