Me & My Job: Gavin Hill, manager, Terra Nostra project, North Shields

What is your typical day?

I teach organic gardening at a sustainable energy community centre known as Terra Nostra in North Shields. Most days start at 7.30am. I check my emails, then check the garden centre, which includes two polytunnels and two greenhouses. I prepare for class before dealing with paperwork and post. Teaching starts by 9.15. Most of the training is practical, as we cater for students and adults with disabilities. We cover various aspects of practical horticulture on the 2.5ha site. In the afternoon I include theoretical sessions. Students leave at 3pm and then I do more admin and ordering. I get home by about 5pm and spend time with my wife and kids. After my 30-month-old son's bedtime I can spend up to three hours preparing work.

What takes up most of your time?

Teaching and administration. I will be looking to employ an admin assistant next year to release more time.

Do you get out of the office enough?

I make sure I have time away from the office. I believe it to be beneficial. Also, I'm unable to leave the practical side completely - I find it too enjoyable

What's the best part of your job?

Showing the students how fun horticulture can be. I like to see the smiles on their faces when they see their seeds popping up, especially when they've never attempted to grow anything before. We'll be offering the new diploma in land-based studies and environment in 2009 because we, as an industry, need to start encouraging children and offering apprenticeships.

And the worst?

We are a charity-based project, so we are constantly fighting to gain funding. I have been employed on a one-year funded contract, so the challenge is on to be able to pay my salary next year. I am confident I will be able to continue after the year is up.

What piece of kit can you not do without?

My enthusiasm and humour. Also my pruning knife, which my mother bought for me back in 1983.

How do you wind down?

I have a wonderful wife, who lets me bend her ear about my day, and four great kids.

What does the future hold?

A great opportunity to put the North East on the map with a successful eco-project that teaches organic gardening - rubbing a few noses in the mud as we prove that new ideas and technology in sustainable energy can and do work.


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