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A 5 year plan to grow great things: Jane studies horticulture online

by Yvette Maurice

Happy local resident Jane Van Dorp describes the weather today in her home town of Bathurst, New South Wales. “It’s greened up!,” she says, “we’re getting lots of rain, so it looks really lovely at the moment!”

Planting the seeds for a future career in horticulture

Jane is part-way through the Certificate II in Horticulture, studying online with Open Colleges. She doesn’t have far to look for inspiration and advice; her husband Hamish works in a similar industry.

“My husband is a contract forester,” Jane explains, “and I’ve always been interested in plants but I never really knew much about them. I would point and say, ‘What’s that?’ and ‘What do I do with it?’ but that was the extent of my knowledge!” she laughs.

Jane is planning to start a business in tree farming

“We have a five year plan,” Jane says. “My husband wants to get out of the harder side of forestry but still wants to do something with forestry, so we are looking at setting up a farm tree nursery and a pine tree nursery. He will be involved in the forestry side and we will be working together.”

Jane explains what this type of tree might be used for, in a commercial sense. “Farm trees are native trees that farmers want to put on their properties. Often they will want a native plantation as opposed to a pine tree plantation, for example.”

“Farm trees are very hard to get around here and there are not any suppliers at all. There used to be a good nursery here that had a lot of farm trees but they went out of business. We saw an opening and thought, let’s try it!”


Jane decided to study a course online with Open Colleges to get some extra knowledge and skills for the business she is aiming to start. She and her husband are already working on ideas for their tree farm.

“We’re experimenting with lots of native trees on our block to see what works and what doesn’t. We’re also experimenting with propagation while we’ve got the time.”

Jane says that her husband’s knowledge, combined with her new skills will give her confidence to follow her business dreams. “My husband contracts to the forestry industry,” Jane explains. “His business does everything apart from harvesting the pine trees.”

“They do the planting, the inventory, the plotting, the pruning….everything that’s involved with managing a pine tree forest. He subcontracts so he’s got his own business, rather than being employed by State Forests.”

How do you study a course in horticulture online?  


Jane finds the autonomy of studying online suits her personality and skills. “I was working in real estate for one year and I did an online course for that. So I thought, right – I can do an online course in horticulture – I’ll see what there is.”

“I found Open Colleges because of the ads on TV and went through (the course description) and thought, yep – that’s what I want to do,” says Jane.

“The learning materials are very, very clear. I was impressed. I have tried to do online courses before and usually the learning materials you get are either badly printed or the diagrams are unclear. Previously I was doing an agricultural course and I found the diagrams so bad that I couldn’t tell what the labels were pointing at! (In my last course) lack of information and lack of feedback was also a problem for me.”

About her Open Colleges course, Jane says, “I’ve been very impressed. It was very easy to learn. I found the materials very easy to work with, the course materials are very clear, the questions are relevant and the self-learning activities that are throughout the course were well-timed and very good for retaining the information.”

Jane does her course, assisted by trainer and assessor, Julie

“I had a long conversation with my trainer Julie at the beginning of my course and she said that if there were any questions or issues I had with the materials to let her know,” Jane says.

Whether a student is sailing along with ease or needing extra help, a trainer and assessor can provide guidance and support. Jane says she needed less than most! “I found the course easy to do so I didn’t have to contact her a lot. We have emailed back and forth a couple of times and that had been really helpful. I haven’t needed a lot of contact, but whenever I’ve needed to contact somebody, they’ve been great. So I am very happy.”

Receiving feedback on your work, just as you would at TAFE or university, is a benefit for many students and has been a plus for Jane. “I also found that the feedback I got from any time I’ve rung Open Colleges about the course has been really good,” she says. “Everyone has been really helpful, so I would thoroughly recommend Open Colleges’ online courses to anyone.”

Julie Miller, Jane’s trainer and assessor says, “I am so thrilled that Jane has made such great progress in this course; Jane has definite plans in place and I am delighted that with the skills she is developing in this course she and her husband will be able to work together to achieve their dreams, these skills become a stepping-stone into a career that has limitless boundaries in the vast horticultural industry. I wish her all the best in her studies.”

“Trainer Julie says, “The course is designed to be an introduction to horticulture – and the range of electives enable you to gain the essential skills necessary for a wide range of applications within the industry.”

Jane has clear business goals in mind


Because Jane wants to start a tree farming business with Hamish, she knows what information she is hoping to become skilled with.

“My main aim is to know what variety I am looking at and how you grow it. My main aim is to understand it, rather than say to Hamish, ‘What is it?’ or, ‘How do I get rid of it?’ or, ‘How do I grow more of it?’”

One of her desires is to “…just have a general knowledge of horticulture, so I can go to a nursery and think, ‘Yep – that’s the thing that I want,’ or, ‘No, that won’t work in the area where I plan to grow it.’  I also want to be able to test my own soil out on the property, and to know what will work and what won’t work. I really want to have a general understanding, so if I did want to go into any other section of horticulture, I would have a solid basis there.”

Jane simply loves learning. “My learning is really for my own satisfaction, so I know what things are,” Jane says. “I’m working for a national builder and I’m loving it – but we have to have a five year plan. My employers are very supportive of my course and everything.”

And on her days off? “We have a couple of horses on our property,” Jane says she loves to ride, “and I do music theatre. My life is pretty full on!”

Want to do the same course?

Open Colleges’ AHC20416 Certificate II in Horticulture is a nationally recognised qualification where you will learn to recognise plants, undertake planting tasks, use correct pruning techniques and collect plant specimens. Retail skills relevant to a garden centre environment are also covered.

Not keen on horticulture? No problem! Open Colleges offers a range of online courses in many areas from small business management, finance, accounting, fitness, allied health and many more. Search our online courses here.

Photo of gumboots by Krista Baltroka – thanks

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