The days when a career in horticulture was seen as something for the class dunce are set to be long gone.
That’s what a guest told me at the official launch of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture (CIH) on Monday. A ceremony in the Elizabethan surroundings of Hatfield House, the seat of the Marquess of Salisbury, gathered together the great and the good of the horticulture world to celebrate the institute’s royal elevation.
The institute’s 1,278 members will now be able to achieve the same status as chartered accountants, marketers and financial planners, while the profession will finally be able to attract and retain talent more effectively – at least, that’s the hope of CIH president-elect Andrew Gill.
“Horticulture means a lot more than just piling up leaves and digging holes,” he told me. “Chartered status will allow us to punch our weight, and we can represent the profession more effectively to policy makers.”
Gill says his main aim for the sector is to improve working standards and pay, and to capitalise on the food industry’s increasing dependence on horticulturalists to help them grow food more efficiently. Indeed, Sainsbury’s product technologist Theresa Huxley put it best on Monday when she pointed out to me that without horticulturalists, we wouldn’t have fresh produce.
Gill said that for too long it had been seen as a career that no one wanted to pursue unless they had expended all other eventualities.
Young people didn’t see it as a worthwhile career, but the CIH now had the tools to change these perceptions, Gill added.
Heather Barrett-Mold, a consultant to the profession who – along with Gill and four others – was one of the first to achieve chartered status, said it was the “end of one process and the start of another”, adding “we have to make people realise that horticulture is a really important profession”.
Horticulture is “an excellent career with lots of opportunities and a huge skills shortage”, Barrett-Mold added.
It looks like we’ll be hearing a lot more about chartered horticulturists from now on.