Head of Horticulture
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, 108 students appear in the Horticulture Awards Day booklet today.
I congratulate all of you here and I’m sure that your families, friends and the CAFRE teaching staff are all immensely proud of your achievements.
I would especially like to commend those who have returned to education after many years, those who travelled long distances to undertake courses and those who persisted and achieved despite difficult personal circumstances – well done to each one of you.
Education is not a destination but a journey and many graduating today will choose to progress to further study, if not now, then later on in their careers.
Tiernan Kelly, Jeni Jarden & Dominka Glowinkowska hope now to undertake Foundation degree having completed their further education programmes. We wish them along with all others who will be progressing every success.
We are very grateful for the support offered by the Horticulture Industry to our students in whatever form it takes.
We have three bursary recipients from the CAFRE Bursary programme graduating from the Foundation Degree this year. Esther Thoburn won the Calor Bursary, Juliet Turner the Bulrush Bursary and Edele Feenan the Out There Bursary which also came with a valuable work placement opportunity.
Not satisfied with just one bursary, Juliet Turner then competed on a UK wide competition basis to win yet another bursary – the Floranova Award from the David Colegrave Foundation. She was the first recipient of this new award which supports environmental solutions and sustainable applications as applied to commercial horticulture – a bursary very much for our time.
Fellow Foundation degree students Aine Gilchrist and Richard Murray were also awarded student scholarships by the same Foundation – well done all three. We are exceptionally pleased as a college, that CAFRE students won three from the available 10 David Colegrave Foundation bursaries in competition with student entries coming from 22 other UK colleges.
On the sports turf front, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews (R&A), the governing body for the game of golf, awarded Foundation Degree student Calum Burnside a scholarship last autumn. We are proud that this was the first R&A scholarship to be awarded through any college on the island of Ireland.
In addition to a generous annual financial package for the duration of his studies, Callum will undertake a week`s work experience at Askernish links Golf course in Scotland. Callum will also be invited to participate in the preparation of golf courses for all the major golf competitions throughout the world with his travel and subsistence supported by the R&A – a truly wonderful opportunity.
We are particularly delighted to have Wendy Cole, Sustainability Manager from the R&A with us today, attending her first but hopefully not her last CAFRE Awards Day.
Horticulture students are encouraged to develop a network of industry links through visits, college-based events and work placements. Our annual careers event gives students the chance to learn about the many opportunities for careers and progression that are open to them. This year some 30 local businesses from a range of sectors within the industry interacted with the students. The event was very useful for students and as has been the case in recent years there appeared to be more opportunities for employment than horticulture students available to fill the posts.
As part of developing the students’ entrepreneurial awareness, Kerry McClintock, Business Development Officer for Antrim Enterprise Agency, spoke to the level 3 Floristry and Foundation Degree students about the possibility of setting up their own business and we hope some in due course may rise to this challenge.
The Foundation degree students planned, marketed and ran the annual Christmas poinsettia & pot plants project in an attempt to mimic the cut and thrust world of commercial horticulture. The aim of these projects is to develop growing, marketing, selling and customer care skills with the profits generated being used to support student tours.
Our Level III Extended Diploma students had an opportunity to develop practical skills assisting in the construction and preparation of a modular garden which was used to help promote horticulture working in partnership with the NI Horticulture forum at this year`s Balmoral Show.
CAFRE foundation degree student Jill Woolsley who is graduating today had a wonderful opportunity to study horticulture last semester at MSU on the stunning green campus the size of a small town where over 50,000 students are enrolled.
“Fair exchange is no robbery” This year we were delighted to have 5 Michigan State University horticulture students visit CAFRE in return.
The visitors experienced a varied programme of social activities, and tours of the best of what N Ireland has to offer (both horticultural and cultural) including of course the now compulsory Game of Thrones venues! It was an enriching experience for them and the CAFRE students they interacted with.
CAFRE students both current and past, continue to excel in competitions, a testament to both themselves and the teaching staff at the college.
We were pleased to have three floristry students compete at Chelsea. In the Young Chelsea Florists Competition, Level 2 student Victoria Brennan was awarded a Silver Gilt Medal, and Level 3 student Megan Ingram, won a Bronze.
Pleasingly also, Anne Kirkwood, a CAFRE graduate from last year, flew the flag for the CAFRE Alumni by winning a silver gilt in the Chelsea Florist of the year competition for slightly older competitors.
Also graduating today is Level 3 Floristry student Clara Agnew who, just last week was placed second in the UK floristry skills Northern Ireland heat.
Clara now has an anxious wait on results from the rest of the UK which will determine if she will go forward to squad selection for world skills at Birmingham in November this year – we wish her the best of luck.
On the landscaping side, we were also pleased to have a significant presence at Chelsea this year. CAFRE Foundation Degree student Reece McKay, having developed his landscaping skills and knowledge at Greenmount, and secured a bronze medal at the UK landscaping finals in November 2018, enthusiastically volunteered to join talented garden designer Mark Gregory to help build the “Welcome to Yorkshire Garden”.
Mark’s fantastic creation secured not alone a Gold Medal but also the ultimate accolade being the people’s choice for best show garden 2019.
Reese was clearly on a roll as in early June he and fellow student Brian Hughes who is also graduating today, were runners up in the Association of Professional Landscapers “Young landscapers of the year competition” at BBC Gardener’s World Live and their competition garden secured a well-deserved gold medal.
Once again and pleasingly, the alumni flag was also been flown at Chelsea but this time on the landscaping side, by ex-foundation degree student Tina Suonio from Finland.
Tina after a chance meeting while studying at Greenmount with BBC Gardeners’ World presenter, Carol Klein, got involved in Chelsea by volunteering with Mark Gregory and other designers over a number of years. 2019 saw her return to Chelsea as a designer not alone to build the first-ever Finish garden at Chelsea “Roots in Finland” but also to secure a coveted gold medal.
Well done also to Level 3 student, Rachael McElfatrick, who for a second time won through to the Ireland Final of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture’s – Young Horticulturist of the year competition. Once again Rachael performed very well and was very highly placed.
And on the same theme in the third year of the Saltex UK inter- college sportsturf competition, a CAFRE team were pipped into second place by just one point for the coveted Saltex trophy so just denying the team a “three in a row win” for CAFRE.
Team members Matthew Reid and Alan Graham are both hoping to qualify and compete at Saltex again next October in an effort to regain the honours.
CAFRE is grateful for the generous support of the Golfing Union of Ireland for funding the Greenkeeping Cadetship Programme. We are very pleased to have Martyn Cullen from Rosapenna, Co Donegal as the 21st GUI Greenkeepng cadet graduating from the programme today. Interestingly Martyn is currently on the Greenkeeping staff of the prestigious Doonbeg Course in Co. Clare which is Owned by non-other than US President Donald Trump. Martyn hopes to follow in the footsteps of 5 previous CAFRE Greenkeeping cadets once he has more experience under Irish conditions and secures a place Ohio State Greenkeeping Programme.
With “the Open” at Royal Portrush next month it would be remiss not to acknowledge the progress of two other former GUI Greenkeeping cadets and CAFRE Alumni – Conchobharr Kerr and Andrew Barr who have been integral to course development and preparation for the famous competition. I am also reliably informed that there are at least 5 other CAFRE trained greenkeepers currently working at Royal Portrush.
PARKS GARDENS and GREEN SPACES
This year sees record numbers graduating from the level II Parks Gardens & Green Spaces programme.
Increasing public demands for access to high-quality green spaces in cities and towns have put high demands on the public sector and private sector alike for quality design, maintenance and management of green spaces. In the audience today are some representatives of our new super councils who can see the value of staff training and we are pleased to support them in this respect.
The Parks Gardens and Greenspace graduates here today also make academic history at Greenmount in so far as they have qualified using a new online assessment system, an entirely paperless process – ironically they will soon receive a paper copy of their certificates – who can say maybe certificates will be distributed electronically in the future?
Amsterdam was the base destination for a study tour this April for a combined group of Level III (Year 2) horticulture students and Level II and III Floristry students. During their 4 day stay, the group visited the Dutch Botanical Gardens, the Aalsmeer Flower Auction and the floating flower markets. The final day of the trip was packed with interest for horticulturalists and florists alike with a visit to the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens followed by what for most was the high point of the trip, a visit to the JUB Holland Nursery – the main tulip breeding facility in the country. Spring, Tulips and Amsterdam – the timing could not have been better.
Closer to home our level III Extended diploma and foundation degree students overnighted in County Wicklow and attended the David Robinson Memorial Lecture which this year was on the redevelopment of Oman Botanic gardens. It was a reminder of just how global and high tech our industry is and the many and varied opportunities for trained horticulturalists to gain employment. On the short tour students also visited the World-class and historic Powerscourt gardens, the Powerscourt Garden centre the two prestigious parkland golf courses on site.
Time to finish …
- CAFRE graduands, as you graduate I encourage you to set high professional standards for yourselves.
- Work hard to make a real difference within your industry.
- It is an industry that has so much to offer to you personally and to wider society.
- Be ambitious for that industry and be ambitious for yourself.
Graduating classes of 2019, congratulations and very best wishes on behalf of myself and the horticulture teaching team. Mr. Chairman, Ladies, and gentlemen I now depart slightly from the normal running of events.
It is always very satisfying for the teaching teams when students have their talent recognized on the National and World stages.
Over the past 10 years, CAFRE has had significant success in WorldSkills competitions for Landscape Gardening. The Olympic-like competitions involve building a complex garden from a plan over an intensive three day period. The task is physically and mentally challenging and requires a broad range of hard and soft landscape skills to be deployed by a two-person team under the scrutiny of judges while being watched by thousands of spectators. WorldSkills Finals are held every two years.
By August this year CAFRE graduates have represented the UK in WorldSkills Finals on five separate and consecutive occasions:
2011 – James Cuffey (WorldSkills Silver Medallist, London),
2013 – Matthew Bradley (WorldSkills Competitor Leipzig, Germany),
2015 – Jonathan Gill (Silver Medallist, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
2017 – Adam Ferguson who competed for the UK in Abu Dhabi.
2019 – This year a Level 3 Graduate of June 2018, Shea Mc Ferran will compete in Kazan Russia. We wish Shea well for August.
This fantastic role of honour may be extended to a sixth CAFRE graduate in 2021 who would be representing the UK at the Shanghai China competition but this will only be determined much closer to the time.
Today I would like to recognise Reese McKay who continues to perform to an excellent standard in landscaping. He continues to hone his skills and is moving towards a chance of competing in the next Euroskills competition.
I would also like to recognise two exceptionally talented young florists who graduate today and who have demonstrated excellence at the Young Chelsea Florist Competition this year, with one of them competing for a second time.
So without further ado would now ask special guest Steven Thompson to present the awards of special recognition. I call to the stage:
For exceptional performance in securing a Bronze Medal in the UK Skills Live Landscape Gardening final in November 2018 – Reese McKay
For exceptional performance in winning a Silver Gilt Medal at the RHS Young Chelsea Florist Competition in May 2019 – Victoria Brennan
For exceptional performance in winning a Bronze Medal at the RHS Young Chelsea Florist Competition in May 2019 – Megan Ingram. And it is Megan who competed for a second year running, having also won a Bronze in 2018.
Ladies and gentlemen that concludes all certificate prizes and presentations today. Thank you Mr. Chairman.