HELLO, my name is Lucille Gilpin. Growing up on a farm, I have always had an interest in the science of the plant life around us, which drew me to the horticulture courses offered by CAFRE and the exciting opportunities it presented. I later learned I had coincidentally followed in my father’s footsteps, walking through the CAFRE gates.
Not long into my first semester at Greenmount, I came to realise the vast range of skills from science, technology, art and business required for someone to become a horticulturist, including, of course, a passion for plants. The academic and practical experience I gained during my studies ranged from understanding plant growing media and crop protection to the design, construction and management of gardens and landscapes.
In my second year our class went on a week-long study tour to England. During the tour I was lucky in securing my summer placement at Chapel Cottage Plants in Cambridgeshire. I had a great summer there, working on large scale cultivation of herbaceous perennials destined for selling to the major retailers.
Whilst studying at CAFRE I was lucky enough to secure one of the five Michigan State Exchange opportunities that were available that year. Four months of expenses-paid academic semester at one of the top US universities for horticulture was to be a fantastic and life-shaping experience. I made lifelong friends and gained great knowledge and insight. I found the American attitude to farming fascinating as was a visit to the Monsanto genetic editing site where genetically modified crops were being trialled.
After graduating from Greenmount with a Foundation Degree in Horticulture in 2016, I progressed to top up to Honours degree at Writtle College in Essex. It’s really wonderful that this top-up opportunity is now available to students locally as Greenmount is offering a similar programme starting in June this year.
After Writtle, I moved much closer to home and was lucky to get a job at Gilfresh Produce. My responsibilities included the management of their 1.5 acre glasshouse as well as a role in the technical team. This is when I really began to use the knowledge and practice the skills learnt at Greenmount, especially in crop physiology and pest and disease control.
In autumn 2020, I joined CAFRE at Greenmount in the exciting job role of Horticulture Technologist. Here I work on the planning and management of Crop Technology projects run at the production Horticulture Centre within the campus along with the dissemination of knowledge and technology to NI growers.
I really did have a great experience as a student at Greenmount and have no doubt about my career choice. My recent achievement in being employed by CAFRE is testimony to that. I would highly recommend the CAFRE Foundation Degree and Honours top up route at CAFRE to anyone considering a high level career in horticulture.
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