Bradley Blackledge reckons he doesn’t have a job, just a hobby, but when that hobby took him away from his family, it was Agricultural Appointments who helped them reunite.
“When I was 15, I started working weekends and holidays at a nursery and then I went to trade school and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was apprentice of the year every year, not because I was smart, but because I had found something I enjoyed. I don’t think anyone is silly or stupid, they just haven’t found what they love. To me it was never a job, it was a hobby.” This is how Bradley Blackledge perceives his career in horticulture, which today sees him working as Assistant Nursery Manager for a dynamic seedlings business south-east of Melbourne.
His new employer grows vegetable seedlings for broad acre producers and is a change for Bradley who has worked with potted plants for much of his career – a career which has included employment with the largest of companies to the smallest of family businesses and in which he has developed his skills in every aspect of the plant life cycle from propagation to dispatch.
But this hobby, come career, took Bradley away from those he loved when he was working in Bairnsdale while his family lived two and a half hours away in Bunyip. The job meant leaving home on a Monday morning and returning Friday night, and although he continued to enjoy the work he missed his wife and two children. Feeling the strain he sought alternative employment and rang about an advertised job, thinking he was talking to the employer. Instead he found himself speaking with Howard Wootton from Agricultural Appointments. “I’d never considered there were employment agencies for horticulture but Howard was fantastic and we worked through several positions together until this one became available,” Bradley says.
Securing the position meant Bradley could relocate his family back to Melbourne where his son returned to his old school, his daughter began a nursing course and his wife was reunited with family and friends. For Bradley it also meant a new direction in his horticultural career. “You can’t force people to buy pot plants but people need to eat,” he says of growing vegetables, “and at the moment I am really enjoying what I am doing. It’s like a breath of fresh air, plus I’m with my family again.”
Bradley sees the horticulture industry, particular the growing of vegetables, full of opportunities as new technology and new plant varieties are developed to feed an increasing population, but he also admits that one of the industry’s biggest challenges is attracting quality staff. “It is often perceived as being boring work with low income but there’s plenty of work for workers,” he says. And Bradley himself is a shining example of the career opportunities in the industry and the importance of following your passion. “Do what you enjoy and the rewards will come and, like I did, you can turn that weekend job into a successful career.”