The answer, from the growers he interviewed is clear. Worry number one - where will the next generation of leaders for the production horticulture come from? Worry number two - the need for a stable supply of well-trained workers to drive the business and handle peaks effectively.
While both concerns have of course been with us for many years, they have each been exacerbated in recent times by a combination of factors, not least declining profit margins and the gradual erosion of the public infrastructure required to develop and expand the industry's knowledge base.
Meanwhile, in March this year the threat to all horticulture skills development in the UK deepened dramatically with the publication of a report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills that deemed horticulture a "non priority" area - hence likely to find itself fighting over the crumbs from the priority industries' public funding table.
With the situation looking so bleak, Rae's research, published as a guide for production horticulture professionals concerned with building a sustainable horticulture workforce, provides a much-needed bright spot. In particular, its collation of innovative solutions being tried and tested right now by exemplar growers alongside a number of industry-led training initiatives is encouraging.
On the skills retention side they include business diversification, stretching the growing season, and introducing annualised hours to enable core workers to be retained throughout the year to developing a loyal local labour bank. On the skills creation side they include the development of a level 3 qualification in cultural techniques for production managers and a level 2 nursery manager diploma deliverable on-site and currently being trialled.
None are a panacea. But while the fight to fix the damage done to the infrastructure required to deliver the industry's knowledge base continues, the models outlined in the guide could offer many a way forward.
www.HorticultureWeek.co.uk/leader for recent leaders.