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Thought for today - Blog Post 19.05.2020 Recruitment to Horticulture- Diversity

Over the last few weeks with ever increasing depth and urgency I have been thinking about diversity in Horticulture. Having read report commissioned in October 2019 for the UK Ornamental Horticulture Roundtable Group, I was even more disheartened than before about the lack of ethnic diversity in Ornamental Horticulture here in the UK.

In a nutshell, of the 335-370 thousand UK employees in Ornamental Hort, 95% are UK born white, 3.5% are non-UK born white and 1% are ‘any other ethnic group’. Essentially between 3,350 and 3,700 people working in this field aren’t white. Abysmally lacking in diversity. From personal experience, I would also add that diversity lacks at a great level the further you travel through business hierarchy.

While I have a number of good friends and colleagues representing BAME communities in the industry, only a very few are company directors or senior managers outside of those operating their own companies.

I am having to ask some serious questions about whether the industry is inherently racist or if some other factor/s is/are at play. I suspect it is a multifaceted problem and one of my biggest anxieties is that we are just appallingly bad at engaging with potential employees and prospective students of all ethnicities. I also suspect we are doing worse at directly trying to appeal to groups who are currently poorly represented in the industry. This may be a form of passive racism or ignorance. I don’t have any definitive answer to this.

I know that, even since I was a child, school careers advisors have been very poorly recommending horticulture to people who are ‘less academic’. I have seen this with students that I have taught who have received this exact ‘guidance’. It’s awful and utterly inaccurate, but I’ve heard it many times. Intelligent people, often with dyslexia being told, ‘well, you don’t write well, but look like you could dig a hole, so what about Horticulture?’

It makes me angry. It is lazy. most significantly it is utterly wrong. Wrong to show so little regard for those learner’s needs. Wrong to poorly inform someone. Wrong to be so ill-informed themselves.

This isn’t the full story though as Horticulture must take responsibility here in informing School Careers Advisors, Job Centres and Recruiters of the true skills required for someone to be functionally competent or better still highly skilled as a Horticulturist.

Clearly there is a lot to be done to engage with a wider and much more diverse audience and to rectify the inaccuracies in the general opinion of Horticulture to the outside world. If we can get this right, we have a chance of significantly improving our businesses and the industry as a whole by introducing a far richer array of personality, culture and experience to Horticulture.

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Thank you Carolyn. Yes, we have excellent amateur gardeners representing our diversity, but that hasn’t yet translated to the professional world. I’m sure it needs to start at schools. The new GCSE in Natural History will, I hope, also help to steer people into Horticulture for further study and as a profession.


A thoughtful post Lewis. Quite often when seeing tv programmes about allotments, you see people from ethnic minorities growing the most diverse and imaginative crops. There’s so much knowledge and experience in the amateur field. If only this could lead to spillover into professional areas. I doubt that it’s something flagged up by careers advisors in schools. I think this is the place to start. Gardening is something done in some primary schools but not, as far as I know, in secondaries. The mental health benefits of gardening are well known. This makes it worth spending a bit of educational money on, apart from other benefits. Maybe we should all start to nag the RHS and other bodies to do…

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