According To Seabrook ... Thank heavens for Eastern Europeans

An immigrant worker on a Dutch nursery is sticking 4,000 chrysanthemum cuttings per hour; the lady was so fast you could hardly see her hands move.

Cuttings were trimmed and rooting hormone dipped, but they had to be tipped from bags of one hundred, loosened and, working with both hands, picked up, manipulated cut side down and pushed into a block.

When a tray was filled it had to be returned to the conveyor and a new tray of rooting blocks drawn into position while still continuously inserting cuttings in less than a second. The concentration was remarkable, six hours was as long as this job could be done and it secured a good wage.

At the Suffolk County Show Ground last month three farmers cropping over 10,000 acres in East Anglia gave up a day to tell junior school children about growing potatoes. They helped tip out their crops grown in 40 litre bag pots and measure the results for the Potato Council gyop Competition.

One told me we have to get across what good jobs are now available in agriculture and recruit more young people.

Bear this in mind when reading this report from a UK nurseryman: "We set out to appoint three apprentices last spring and got eight enquiries from two horticultural colleges. A day was arranged to show them everything we did and describe the job opportunities for the future. Four didn't turn up and one left after an hour because work might be outside. Three others were taken on, one lasted two weeks, the second left after a month because "it was unreasonable in today's day and age to start work at 7.30am!" and the third left in August as the winter was coming on and travel would be difficult.

Thank heavens for the Eastern Europeans! Further, no one is telling our youngsters the world does not owe them a living - and if we want to eat, while retaining our current living standards, we are going to have to work longer, harder and sometimes out in the cold.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster


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