Gill Jamieson has always loved working outdoors but once she hit her 50s, work became harder to find.
“I had been a stay-at-home mum, a volunteer at the SPCA, and done a lot of gardening jobs for elderly people around Shannon. But I had been looking for a job for about a year and had no luck. Once you’re over 50 it’s definitely harder to find employment.”
Gill had no idea grapes were being grown nearby but when a position came up in 2014 at Ōhau Wines, on the outskirts of Levin, she jumped at it.
“I just loved it straight away. Being outdoors, working with really great people. And I found grape vines really interesting. I used to think they just squashed grapes up to make wine and that was it. But there’s so much more to it.”
Over the past three years Gill has risen through the ranks to become Ōhau Wines’ supervisor in charge of human resources and pest and disease management. She’s usually the first to arrive each morning at 7:30am and works collaboratively with four other full-time staff to manage 40ha of grapes.
At her CEO’s suggestion, Gill and her colleagues enrolled with Primary ITO to study a range of viticulture papers to improve their skills and knowledge. Thanks to her study and on-the-job training, she’s now knowledgeable about topics such as soil composition, fertilisers and nutrients, health and safety, tractors and machinery, human resources and much more.
“It gives you a better understanding of the big picture and builds your confidence and skills within the industry,” she explains. “I now know what chemicals or sprays to use, and what beneficial enzymes and nutrients to put into our soil to improve our vines. I can also drive a tractor and quad bike, and have learnt all about health and safety.”
Gill’s specialist area of expertise is now pests and diseases. Ōhau has its own microclimate and she has to remain vigilant for any signs of ill health on the vines. “It’s an ongoing learning process and things are changing constantly. But I’m soaking up knowledge all the time and I have discovered a real passion for this subject.”
Now aged 56, Gill says her goal is to continue working in the viticulture industry and to learn as much as she can. “I want to keep studying so we can do the best job possible on this vineyard and produce an excellent crop. Primary ITO study gives you the confidence to make the right calls so if you can get into their programmes, I say ‘go for it’.”