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My Job - Dee Sewell - Owner/Manager of Greenside Up

Real-life Industry Profiles for Careers in the Horticulture & Environmental Sectors

Career Title?

Owner/Manager of Greenside Up 

Current Employer or Self Employed?

Self Employed

How and why did you choose this career?

I'm a latecomer to this profession though have always had a love for the garden and our environment. I returned to education as a mature student when my youngest daughter started school and took a Fetac Level 5 Horticulture course. Having failed to win any of the garden makeover competitions that I'd been entering and dreaming about, I figured I was just going to have to design my own!

What is a typical "Day in Your Work Life" like?

There are no typical days. Depending upon the time of year I could be out and about helping new gardeners set up community gardens in their towns and villages, teaching after schools children about nature and growing food, guiding intellectually disabled adults in their vegetable garden or sitting at my kitchen making up packs of seed collection cards or taping away at the keyboard writing a blog post. I spend a lot of time using social media to connect with customers, industry contacts and friends who share similar concerns about our environment and/or a love of gardens.

What are the most and least rewarding aspects of your job?

The most rewarding aspect is watching people grow. That probably sounds a bit corny but when I first meet new gardeners who haven't a clue where or how to start and then observe their own confidence developing, their joy and excitement of seeing their gardens flourish and bloom and then listen to them pass on the information they've learnt to others - the job satisfaction is immeasurable I can't think of any aspects that I don't like other than perhaps not enough hours in the day once we hit the spring, or the worry that everything we sow in the spring doesn't germinate!

What are the working conditions like (Stress, Pace, Physical Comfort, Travel, Environment, Hours, Routine vs Crisis, etc.)?

My working conditions are generally what I make them. I work for myself so my hours are varied. I'm happy inside or out so whether I'm gardening in the lashing rain or frost or parked up outside a GAA pitch waiting for my children to finish their practice with the laptop and a pile of books, I live a very varied lifestyle. What I don't have however, is a 9 to 5 job or a regular wage at the end of every week or month. Rightly or wrongly the phone is always on but that's part and parcel of being a small business owner in today's climate.

What are the most important skills and abilities required (Creativity, Emotional Distancing, Emotional Involvement, Language/Communication, Manual Dexterity, Leadership, Physical Ability, Persistence, Social Skills, Time Management, Logic/Reasoning, Negotiation, etc.)?

People skills are very important, as is time management, multitasking and a desire to personally keep learning and improving on skills so that they remain relevant and can be passed on to others.

What Secondary School and College courses have you found to be most applicable/important for your occupation?

I was lucky to be able to attend an excellent course in Carlow College of Further Education and had the Arboretum Lifestyle & Garden Centre on my doorstep for my work experience where both Eammon & Ger (passionate and knowledgeable horticulturalists) acted as mentors. I studied eleven modules in my year at the college, passing them all with distinctions. If this opportunity hadn't been available locally it's unlikely that I would have been able to pursue this career as the juggle between a shift working husband and three young children would have made it too difficult to manage. Unfortunately the next level of training was not available in Carlow and the journey to The Botanical Gardens in Dublin or The Institute of Technology in Waterford impossible to manage with my family commitments to allow me to study further.

I've attended some good courses at Irish Seedsavers in Clare and lament the fact that The Organic Centre is so far away as they offer a fantastic programme throughout the year!

As a trainer with the VEC I attended an excellent Fetac Level 6 Train the Trainer course which has helped immeasurably with my work.

Would you choose this career if you could make the decision again and what (if anything) would you do differently?

Absolutely! If I could do anything differently it would be to start learning about horticulture when I was twenty and been in a position to study for higher levels of education. Having said that I loved returning to education as an adult. I was like a sponge and soaked up every piece of information shared with me. I'm not sure that I'd have been so enthusiastic as a twenty year old.

Are there any trends (e.g. demographic, social, legal) that concern you or any trends that will make this career choice more or less attractive in the future?

I would like to see more support from the 'powers that be'. I feel more time and effort could be offered to horticultural businesses in general. People love to garden whether it's just pottering around, growing a few vegetables or taking it more seriously. With cheap imports of goods being sold and of course the recent changes in our weather, it's a very tough industry to be in. We don't even have Irish gardening programmes to watch on the TV! Thankfully I'm working in an area that's very popular at the moment (grow your own) and don't carry the overheads that many do, but I feel for the businesses that do as I watch more and more rain put people off getting out into their gardens!

We also have some beautiful gardens in our country open to the public which would be great for tourism but they don't appear to pick up the funding or publicity that other industry areas do.

Does your career provide the opportunity to balance time between work and family?

I've been in business three and a half years now and am learning to balance the time better though it's difficult when your home is your office too and work gets busier and busier.

Any Final "words of advice"?

If you'd like to work for yourself and have an idea go for it. Do your market research, go and chat with your local Enterprise Board and attend a Start Your Own Business Course (I didn't but it would have saved me a lot of time had I known). Be prepared to work hard, have successes and failures and to change your business plan to fit in with the current market.



Dee Sewell - a horticulturalist and certified trainer who started Greenside Up in 2009 and teaches people how to grow vegetables. Dee specialises in working with community gardens but also offers workshops, allotment visits, consultations, horticultural therapy, afterschools clubs as well as local talks - she tailors her services to meet clients needs. In 2012 Dee launched a Seed Gift Collection containing varieties of vegetable and insect friendly flowers with the aim of getting more people growing. Dee's blog was a finalist in the 2012 Ireland Blog Awards in the Eco/Green and Lifestyle Categories.

Source: HortiTrends News Room