I was delighted to represent the Arb Association at the Chelsea Flower Show at a Young People’s Breakfast Event run by the RHS.
Jenny Long at the Young People’s Breakfast Event at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show
200 young horticulturalists were chosen from colleges and associations (including arb students and AA student members) to come and enjoy a fancy breakfast at the show and listen to five speakers give them an insight into their journey in the industry. The theme for this year’s annual event was ‘Horticulture and the Media’, aimed at inspiring future generations in how they can work with the media to promote their field.
I followed 19-year-old gardener Huw Richards: he’s a vlogger who is an internet sensation, so I decided I would stick to more traditional methods of communication, and the premise of my speech was to ask the young audience to consider communication as much wider than just social media. I think is important to remember that every time we engage with the public in ‘work mode’ as a tree surgeon or gardener or horticultural professional of any kind, we affect their perception not only of us as individuals or of our companies but of the industry as a whole.
I shared with them my and my husband Matt’s journey in arboriculture, his 20-year career as a passionate arborist that has taken him from the forests of Finland to the towering oaks of North America and now to running his own tree care company in Ross on Wye, and my own journey, having quit my career four years ago to join Matt and help him run the commercial side of the business. I told them about my experiences from volunteering with DART (Disaster Arborist Response Team) and promoting their charitable work and deployments, to then joining the Women in Arb group, and eventually in 2018 becoming an Arb Association Trustee.
Getting the message out there
I reminded these youngsters that is it easy, when surrounded by fellow gardeners and tree surgeons, to assume that everyone knows that trees and gardens and time spent outdoors are all good for us. But not everyone sees plants, trees and gardens in this way. We have seen huge changes in recent years in our understanding of the benefits of being outside and engaging with nature and how it can be a real and effective therapy for mental health issues. And scientific studies have now proven that just having a view of trees from a hospital bed can improve a patient’s recovery from illness and injury. But I would argue that there is still much to be done to get our message out there.
I have been delighted at the positive response to my media and communications work in promoting firstly my own business, then the work of DART and now the Association. However, I am aware that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for networking and promotional work. I will admit that on a number of occasions I have had to work hard to convince volunteers into promoting a wider cause (my husband was a little terrified when he featured on the front page of our local papers and had radio stations calling him up before he deployed with DART to the Caribbean in 2017!). But as I told the youngsters at Chelsea, if you want to be successful you do need to think about how you will promote your own businesses or yourselves as individuals and how that will reflect on your industry.
As well as social media campaigns to advertise or promote our work or charitable projects, I asked them to consider other forms of media. Sending your local papers or radio stations photos and an interesting story about what you are doing, either work you are particularly proud of or wider industry related projects and charity programmes, all gains exposure and challenges the stereotype of the ‘man with a van’.
I also urged them to consider joining an association to meet like-minded professionals and access more opportunities. The Arb Association has a range of committees and projects that people can get involved with, all with the aim of developing and promoting the wider industry. And I asked them not to be afraid of talking to and working with competitors on wider industry improvements or charity projects around trees or green spaces.
The benefits of opening up
Opening ourselves up, promoting ourselves and our business has benefited us as a company and Matt and I as individuals, and it has allowed us to become part of the development of this industry and shape the future. I shared with this young and enthusiastic audience that I believe we all have a role to play in driving our industry forwards and in protecting this beautiful landscape, which when managed and nurtured properly can bring endless benefits to us.
I was heartened by their energy and their response to hearing about opportunities that exist in arboriculture for them to get out there, get involved and not just carve out an enjoyable and rewarding career for themselves but feel part of shaping the future of the industry and I think that we should all, at any age or any stage of our career, do the same.
This article was taken form Issue 186 Autumn 2019 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.