Carol Mortensen picking blackberry samples
TAFE NSW student, Carol Mortensen, is living, learning and working the great outdoors horticulture dream with the Costa Group – Australia’s leading grower, packer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables.
TAFE NSW delivers tailored face-to-face and online training to Costa Group employees to better equip them to excel in today’s farming communities. Courses are run in NSW off-site at the Woolgoolga Community Centre, on-site at Costa Group facilities in Coffs Harbour and Tumbarumba, and online as far afield as Tolga, Far North Queensland.
Tolga-based, Ms Mortensen said, “Growing up on a farm with corn fields and cattle in the Upper Barron, Malanda region, I have always had an interest in the great outdoors and wanted to further my studies, as my major and most enjoyable subjects at school were biology and chemistry.”
When Ms Mortensen started working at Costa Berries in April 2017, her interests in plants were accentuated and she wanted to upskill with more specialised technical crop growing skills.
“My career aspirations quickly became horticulture focused and after enquiring about training, I was offered to study an online Certificate III in Production Horticulture with TAFE Digital. I jumped at the opportunity and said yes immediately,” she said.
TAFE NSW Regional Manager, Marie Larkings said TAFE NSW is thrilled to be working with the Costa Group to deliver horticultural, agricultural chemical and rural operations training in the format which most effectively meets their particular needs, whether it be face-to-face or online.
“TAFE NSW caters to the individual needs of businesses and organisations to deliver the unique training they require. Continued skills advancement is critical in today’s workforce; for an organisation to continue evolving, individuals need to constantly learn and grow,” Ms Larkings said.
“Although we are predominantly delivering face-to-face training for the Costa Group, courses such as these can also be studied online, when and where it suits students, via TAFE Digital.”
Ms Mortensen works with the Costa Berry Category, which is at the forefront of genetic and growing innovation, and is the only Australian berry grower to achieve year-round production of blueberries and raspberries.
Learning about weather conditions, linked to pest and disease control, appealed to Ms Mortensen the most.
“In Far North Queensland we have significantly different weather and climactic conditions to those experienced by other Costa sites throughout Australia,” she said.
“I have learnt a lot about the harsh cyclone conditions and am able to relate patterns back to crop growth reactions and how to improve yield for future seasons. Integral to crop management is negating pest and disease threats.”
“I believe one of my best work achievements includes being able to read, interpret and put forward analytical results from leaf and water samples to produce fine-tuned fertigation recipes - the injection of fertilizers, used for soil and water amendments and other water-soluble products - for irrigation of the crops,” she said.
Ms Mortensen said studying while working in an innovative environment is a recipe for success and that although she’s given three working hours per week to study, she enjoys working at her own pace to do online research and assessments after hours from the comfort of home.
“The virtual classrooms are engaging - I can interact with class mates and our teacher keeps me motivated with tips for upcoming assignments, assessments and exams,” she said.
Career opportunities across the Costa Group include horticulture, farm management, logistics, agronomy, human resources, safety and quality. Nationally the Berry Category spans more than 680 hectares of farms in Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia, with close to 3000 people being employed during the peak harvest season.
To see TAFE Digital’s hundreds of courses across a range of modern industries, please visit https://www.tafensw.edu.au/digital
Media contact: Bonny Gunn, TAFE Digital Media Business Partner. M: 0417 134 048