One of the challenges busy gardeners (and farmers) have is to find the time to learn new stuff. So, are workshops a good way of learning? Are they really worth your while?

Very early in our farming career, we committed to attending at least one new learning opportunity every year. As a result, we’ve been exposed to incredible teachers like Dr. Christine Jones, Dr. Arden Andersen, Dr. Maarten Stapper, and many others.

We’ve done courses on soil health, plant health, irrigation systems, permaculture, pruning, cherry production, farm planning, biodiversity, soil carbon, organic production, coolstorage, juice production, berry growing, natural fertility, compost, compost tea, holistic management…the list goes on!

In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the Grow Great Fruit program wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t attended so many courses, conferences, field trips, and workshops over the years. It remains one of our core commitments, because there’s always so much more to learn.

For us, it’s definitely been worthwhile, but it doesn’t suit everyone.

Attending a NASAA conference

Finding the right event

It’s important to find the conference, workshop, or course that will give you the quality information you need. We keep an eye out for things that will help us to grow and learn in areas that will help our Grow Great Fruit members.

Gardeners tend to be busy people, so juggling your obligations to free up enough time both for traveling and attending the event itself can be challenging. Carving out time for extra things often involves working longer hours before and/or after the trip to make sure everything gets done.

Then you need to consider your budget. This will include the expense of the conference or workshop itself, as well as any travel, accommodation, or food involved.

Unfortunately, not many gardeners have much of a budget allocation for professional development. That means that sometimes online learning really is the easier and more affordable option!

A conference field trip to an organic apple orchard in South Australia
A conference field trip to an organic apple orchard in South Australia

Online or in-person workshops?

Since COVID, everyone has become used to doing most things online. We’re obviously huge fans of online learning because that’s where the Grow Great Fruit Program happens.

Using technology like Zoom means we can reach gardeners all over Australia, and provide a connected and personal experience for our members.

We also do some of our learning online by attending webinars, workshops, and even remote field trips. We absolutely love the convenience and the fact that we can access teachers and experiences that we can’t access in-person. It’s also pretty handy that online learning is nearly always much more affordable.

But there’s still something special about live experiences, so we’re always on the lookout for in-person events

Making the commitment to learning

We’ve very rarely attended a live event to do with farming or growing food that was a waste of time.

Sure, it can be hard to organise the logistics to make it happen, but it’s so worth it! Whenever we make the effort to attend a field trip, conference, or workshop, we always learn something new. Many times we’ve come away with a piece of new information that has fundamentally changed the way we teach, farm, or do business.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter whether you choose to learn online or in person. For many people online is always going to win, which is why we’re committed to keeping Grow Great Fruit alive and thriving.

The point is to make a commitment to keep learning, and we’re keen to encourage that in any way we can.

Quite aside from new stuff you might learn, the best part – always – is the people you meet, and the connections you make.

Feeling like you’re part of a bigger community with common goals and getting together with your “tribe” is refreshing, renewing, inspiring, and totally worth the effort!

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