The course returned this year after a 15-year hiatus and proved to be so popular that South West TAFE is now taking expressions of interest for a mid-year intake and is planning a higher-level option in 2024.
In the meantime, the Portland Community Garden is reaping the benefits of the revived interest.
South West TAFE horticulture teacher Jacqueline Wheatley said the new course had created a lot of demand and inspired fresh support for the community garden.
The current Certificate II course runs over 12 months with students completing 15 subjects covering a basic introduction to horticulture, including plant identification, propagation, pruning and gardening, along with information on small-scale irrigation, paving and landscape projects.
Ms Wheatley said TAFE students were embracing the community garden, giving it a fresh injection of volunteers.
“When we started the course, I thought it would be good to get the students on board so I took them down to the community garden and president Wayne Barrett explained what it is about,” Ms Wheatley said. “They really connected with what he was saying and it snowballed from there.
“TAFE already has four garden beds there but I put the word out that the rest of the garden could benefit from some help. It’s a huge six-acre property and it’s a lot to cover with only a few volunteers.”
Most weeks the students have an on-site working bee. “The students love it; they’re thriving on it,” Ms Wheatley said. “Wayne is so grateful for the contributions the students are making and I’m really proud of how they have become involved and how they are going ahead in leaps and bounds in their course.”
Several local nursery staff are also planning to gain formal qualifications next year through the TAFE course.
Mr Barrett said he was excited to see the course back up and running this year.
“TAFE has had their plots for quite a few years for when courses are running and one of our key volunteers is doing the course,” he said.
“Other students have been in and are going to take over doing seedlings and organising plants for the urban farm part of the garden and two other members plan to reconstruct the herb garden, which will be fantastic.”
“Other students have come to the garden to do things in the individual plots and the hothouse and we can contact them whenever we need some help so it has been really great.”
Mr Barrett said the community garden had an efficient set-up that ran well with a small number of people but there were key times when they needed extra labour.
“Service clubs also help but labour is critical to any community group,” he said. “We’ve very happy with the arrangements with TAFE.”