Gina Greentree was a marketing and legal professional for more than 20 years before she swapped the court for the veggie patch.
Five years ago she and her husband purchased a farm in Charleys Forest, about 30 kilometres from Braidwood.
While her previous career provided plenty of transferable skills, Ms Greentree wanted to learn more about how to effectively invest in and maintain her farm, to create a more sustainable living for herself and her husband.
“I wanted to make sure that I was well equipped to manage my farm in the best way possible,” she said.
“Part of my desire to make my family sustainable was to learn about how to plant, propagate and really improve the landscape of our farm.”
Ms Greentree began studying a Bachelor’s Degree of Agriculture at Charles Sturt University and a Certificate III in Horticulture at TAFE NSW in Moruya.
“I hope to be able to understand the technical side of landscaping with my own garden and my vegetable gardens, as well as being sustainable,” she said.
“My goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible, which means not buying anything outside and just producing it myself, that’s the ultimate goal.”
As part of the TAFE course, Ms Greentree joined a group of 20 students on the excursion of a lifetime – travelling to Melbourne for the International Flower and Garden Show.
While there, the group met industry experts, including former Better Homes and Gardens host Jason Hodges – a former TAFE NSW student himself.
“It was a wonderful experience and gave me an overall perspective on the emerging trends in sustainability, where the market is moving, and plenty of other insights,” Ms Greentree said.
“It was all about what’s trending, how to manage the gardens, what’s the latest in weed management, what to look for etc and we also got a lot of behind the scenes tours as well.
“The students who are keen to go into a horticultural career really got a lot of value out of the behind the scenes look with the landscape design team.”
The students also had a tour of the Botanic Gardens.
“It was really beneficial,” Ms Greentree said. “TAFE NSW is so practical and it’s as beneficial as any of the university degrees I have done.
“It has given me amazing insight into things I didn’t know and it’s been very hands-on as well.”
TAFE NSW Horticulture head teacher Gabriele Harding said the Melbourne trip allowed students to develop their skills and expand on their professional networks.
“It really was an unbelievable opportunity for these students and it could literally change the course of their careers,” Ms Harding said.
“These industry leaders were actively reaching out to our students, offering to mentor them and inviting them back next year.
“They were also able to see the latest trends and technologies in the industry and it’s something they will remember forever.”
Ms Greentree said she now felt she had new skills she never would have acquired just by going to university.
“I can now identify weeds, I’ve learned about propagating, I’ve growing my own vegetables … it’s incredible what I didn’t know,” she said.