Tam Cole-Holt

Birdhurst Ltd
Tell us about your background.

I was born and raised in Zimbabwe and immigrated to NZ in 2000. I have had a varied professional background including fundraising, administration, marketing, motorcycles and even a stint as a chef. I finally stumbled across horticulture in 2013 while travelling the UK/Europe and working on an organic vegetable farm.

What do you do now?

Currently I am an Assistant Block Manager (Pipfruit) for Birdhurst Ltd, based in Motueka.

How did you get that role? What was the pathway to that?

 After returning to NZ from Europe I sought work in horticulture, starting by enrolling myself for the National Certificate in Horticulture Level 3, being self-driven to learn and gain qualifications aided me towards securing a job and later, an apprenticeship in high-tech glasshouse vegetable production. During this time, I finished my Level 3 and Level 4, upon completion of my apprenticeship I moved to the outdoor vegetable division to gain further skills, while undertaking my Level 4 Advanced. I was then accepted onto the Horticulture NZ Leadership Program 2019 to further develop my leadership skills and gain valuable knowledge on how to drive my career while constantly promoting horticulture. Through networking on the program, I was offered my current position which offered further growth and progression of my career.

What’s the best thing about your role?

It is hard to pin-point one specific highlight. I enjoy the technical aspect of growing fruit and learning from the challenges we face, but I also love the variety of people I get to work with daily, especially when presented with the opportunity to support and foster the passion and growth of new up and coming people in horticulture.

Was being a woman a hindrance or a help in getting this role?

I do not believe being a woman helped or hindered me in getting this role. I am fortunate enough to have a leader who bases his decisions on ability, motivation, and passion.

Do you have any qualifications?

I am a certified beekeeper, a certified computer technician as well having the National Certificate in Horticulture Level 3, 4 and 4 Advanced. I am currently undertaking a Diploma in Horticulture with Lincoln University.

Did you require any specific education or training for this role?

Not specifically for pip-fruit. All our sectors in Horticulture have many cross-over skills, and I believe if you apply yourself, the transition from one sector to another can be achieved easily.

If you had your time again would you do anything different?

I would have studied horticulture sooner and would have started working in the industry sooner too.

Do you have any advice/tips for other women wanting a role like yours?

Ask for it! Do not wait for the opportunity to be given to you, create it, self-educate, continuously grow, and network! The opportunities are out there, if the opportunities are not in your current workplace, find one that has them. Do not be afraid of change.

As a woman involved in horticulture is there anything that you would like to see change that would make your life/role better?

Not specifically for myself, however, I would love to see more horticultural businesses adapt towards a more flexible approach regarding school-hour requirements for women/mothers. There is a wealth of ability, knowledge and passion that is lost or stifled because of the perception that the only way to succeed or progress in horticulture is through the 50+ hour working week. Let us work smarter, not harder.

Are you on any Boards? If so which ones

Currently I am not on any boards, however, I am the Secretary for “Grow NZ Women”, a local group to the Tasman region that promotes and supports women at all levels of horticulture, providing workshops, tours, mentoring and networking to our local community. I am also the President for the Motueka Toastmasters group that promotes public speaking and leadership. These are both voluntary roles. I am always looking for opportunities to expand on this experience.