VEG Education was born from a need to think differently about horticulture workforce development, safety and business security. In this article, founder Catherine Velisha (pictured above) speaks about why she established VEG and what it can offer Australia’s vegetable industry members.

Third-generation horticultural business owner, Catherine Velisha, has learnt the hard way that keeping your team educated drives not only compliance, but also productivity, loyalty, and satisfaction.

“There was always something missing in our ability to develop the people in our business. We often take the best worker and make them a team leader or manager with little or no training and then wonder why they fail,” Catherine says.

“When I purchased the Velisha Farms business off Dad, I quickly realised that things needed to change. Safety, education and investing in our people became a priority.”

Developing a people-first approach and investing in education to improve the skills of her workforce, Catherine has been able to change the culture of her family-run business.

Farming and the horticulture sector are seen by the broader community in very simple terms; however, the truth is so much more complex.

Catherine Velisha.

In 2020, Catherine joined forces with employment and work, health and safety lawyer, Neil Salvador, to establish VEG Education as a vehicle to assist other horticulture businesses to take the leap into real, value-adding, industry specific education.

“Taking back the narrative from people outside of the industry has been so important for me,” Catherine explains.

“I am so sick and tired of people who have no skin in the game, no understanding of the pressures of our industry coming in and telling us what we need. That is why I have dedicated significant time, resources and my own money into VEG Education – to create something by us, for us.”

VEG Education is now a Registered Training Organisation and is also approved by WorkSafe to deliver the Health and Safety Representative Initial Occupational Health & Safety Training Course.

Catherine’s passion for improving the industry is clear.

“Training and developing your team is so vital to tackle the challenges facing business over the next 10 years,” she says.

“We can provide induction programs, safety training, compliance, management and leadership skills that are specific to horticulture and remove the stress of workplace training.”

Building an education support network

VEG Education programs are designed to support farming businesses from the ground up, and inspire a new generation of smarter, safer workers both in horticulture and the wider food and fibre sector industries.

By providing real-life examples and case studies, VEG ensures its comprehensive programs demonstrate how to run a thriving business and assist in navigating the ever-changing legal and compliance landscape within horticulture.

“We are about providing solutions, tangible examples that can help horticulture businesses,” Catherine explains.

“It’s about giving farmers and owners the tools that will meet their needs – and not simply telling people they have to do better.”

A recent article in The Guardian entitled ‘Farmers manage more than half of Australia. We all have a stake in them getting it right’ highlights the increasing challenges faced by the industry.

Farmers need real support and real solutions that can help their business to survive and compete in this increasingly difficult environment.

Catherine sums this up perfectly.

“Yes, there are more fatalities on farms as a percentage of the workforce in agriculture. Yes, there are workforce labour shortages and yes, the industry is expected to adapt to change with little support,” she says.

“But I believe this is not the time to release a new review or government strategy paper. This is the time to take real action. The industry is ready to make the changes needed, and VEG Education is here to support that.”

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