The creation of VegPRO has enabled vegetable levy-paying growers such as Anthony De Ieso and his Thorndon Park Produce staff in South Australia to undertake free training courses. This program has given him access to high-quality resources and helped him develop new skills and knowledge to advance his business.

Fast facts

Name: Anthony De Ieso
Location: Waterloo Corner, SA
Works: Thorndon Park Produce
Grows: Spinach, kale, parsley, radish, beetroot, silverbeet and spring onions

Thorndon Park Produce bunch line grower Anthony De Ieso would like other vegetable growers to think of VegPRO as their own TAFE or university.

As a grower representative, Anthony says VegPRO is a one-stop shop for your training needs – and everything is free.

Aiming to take training out of the classroom, the adaptive project provides producers, staff and other supply chain members with targeted training to meet specific needs.

So far, Anthony and his staff have taken advantage of training such as VegInnovations – How to value add your product, chemical accreditation, soil-borne diseases and chemical certification courses. They even hosted an irrigation workshop at their Gawler River farm which grows spinach, kale, parsley, radish, beetroot, silverbeet and spring onions.

“Traditionally there’s not much upskilling involved in this industry with a learn-as-you-go approach to on-the-job training,” Anthony says.

“But for me, the various workshops have been a great avenue to learn things that I wouldn’t necessarily learn from, say, my father.

“For irrigation I would have been told, ‘chuck the sprinklers on for 40 minutes on a really hot day. If the ground’s wet, put them on for 20 minutes’. But after hosting an irrigation workshop, I was able to find out how I can look at saturation level and how much my watering has impacted my crops by digging a hole with a spade. That may sound trivial, but I didn’t actually know that before.

“Learning things like that and then seeing the improvement in my soil has been really great for the business, so now my staff and I do as many workshops as we can to keep our skill levels up to constantly learn.”

Vegetable industry education and training initiative (VegPRO, VG15028) is a strategic levy investment under the Hort Innovation Vegetable Fund.

"Has VegPRO made my life easier? Yes. Has it made my staff more aware? Yes. And am I learning as well? Yes. If we can all take away a few points from every workshop, then it has been a success."

How to get involved

Anthony says it is easy to get involved with VegPRO – in many cases it’s as simple as people reading the Weekly Update e-newsletter produced by AUSVEG, or getting in touch with your local VegNET representative.

“All you need to do is check your emails and see what events or courses are planned. If there’s something that interests you, you click it, fill out your details and, boom, you’re booked in for the course. It’s that easy,” Anthony says.

“If you want to push a course, jump on the VegPRO website or have a chat on the social media channels (Facebook and Twitter), and let them know what you need.”

Anthony says word of mouth is spreading about VegPRO courses and workshops, particularly around the younger generation as new faces attend courses.

“The feedback I’ve received is that they really love it; they wish they had the time to do more; and they’re really thankful for it because they’re learning something for free that they can bring back to their farms and make money from.”

Real benefits

Anthony says most of the courses are held over one day, which makes it easier for staff to attend.

“Generally speaking, I look at the course and make a judgement on a) Are we busy at the moment? Can I spare them? b) Will this course benefit them professionally? And c) Will this benefit the business? If I can tick two of the three boxes, I’ll send them to the courses. That means in 90 per cent of the courses, I’ll be sending someone along.

“Has it made my life easier? Yes. Has it made my staff more aware? Yes. And am I learning as well? Yes. If we can all take away a few points from every workshop, then it has been a success.”

Vegetable industry education and training initiative (VegPRO, VG15028) is funded by Hort Innovation using the vegetable research and development levy and contributions from the Australian Government. It is coordinated by RM Consulting Group.

This grower profile first appeared in Grower Success Stories, a levy-funded booklet published by AUSVEG to promote real results from levy investment, and was featured in the AUSVEG Weekly Update published 22 January 2019. If you’d like to subscribe to receive AUSVEG publications, use our online subscription form!

Photography credit: asbCreative Photography.