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As a nine-year-old boy, Chris Hodson won a vegetable growing competition. Now, close to three decades later, he’s come full circle.
Chris is studying horticulture at NMIT and developing a nursery on two acres of land he owns in Tasman.
He says horticulture is in his blood and the career change later in life was a “natural progression”.
His grandfather, Frank Archer, was involved with the New Zealand Fruit Growers Federation, and Chris says he’s always gravitated towards working on the land.
After working for a large company in the tourism industry in Christchurch for 13 years, Chris says he bought a property in the Nelson region in 2012.
“I really like the business I was involved in, but I wanted a clean cut,” he says.
“It's been great to make a change. Life's short. You've got to make some things happen, you’ve got to find your passion.”
Chris says when he came across the New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture Production (Nursery Production) he got really excited about studying.
He could see that the one-year course would provide him with the knowledge and skills to develop the nursery on his land and work in the industry.
Chris says that learning alongside like-minded people at NMIT has made the switch from full-time work to study a breeze.
“I’m finding that I learn so much just by getting amongst similar like-minded people. We all click on the same things,” he says.
“There’s a good environment here that I’m enjoying. We have experts from local industry come in and we get out to places like Waimea Nurseries and people’s private gardens. It’s great to talk to so many people who have such great knowledge about gardens and growing.”
The horticulture programme covers everything from nursery operations and crop protection to plant selection and planning, business management and marketing — all of which will help Chris to start and grow his nursery business.
In keeping with NMIT’s hands-on, practical approach to education, students will spend part of the programme developing a planting plan for a growing project of their choice.
For Chris, that project will be his property in Tasman, a “blank canvas” that he’s started planting with natives and European and Mediterranean-inspired gardens.
“Landscape design is art to me. It's kind of like painting. It's adding a bit of a texture and colour and it's initially organically evolving and growing to my vision.”
Every day he’s learning something new on the course that he can’t wait to get back home and try out on the land.
“Every day I wake up excited to try something new.”
Chris says he would encourage anyone who’s interested in studying and upskilling later in life to “give it a go”
“Just write down the pros and cons, the worst-case scenarios, work out what your passions are and give it a go,” he says. “Take a step, even make a phone call, it's all about momentum. Just make it simple.”