Edward King describes himself as a “reluctant student” who never particularly enjoyed school.
So when his employer, viticulture consultant Dominic Pecchenino, asked if he’d be interested in studying part-time with Primary ITO to expand his knowledge, it took him 12 months to agree.
“I had never relied on paperwork or qualifications before, I just got on with the job,” Ed explains. “But after thinking about it, I thought I should probably back myself a bit more.
“If anything were to go wrong and I had to start again from square one, I didn’t actually have anything to prove I had eight years of viticulture experience – I would be relying solely on people trusting me that I had the skills.”
Over the past four years Ed has completed a variety of viticulture papers with Primary ITO while working full time at Matador Estate in Marlborough. The business spans 240ha across six separate vineyards and Ed spends the majority of his time working with tractors and other machinery to complete spray work and other necessary tasks.
“I love being outdoors and working with machinery. A lot of the papers I’ve completed have backed up what I already knew in this area and given me the formal qualifications I needed to prove it.”
Other subjects, however, have stretched Ed’s knowledge and given him a good grounding in topics like plant health, production and frost protection. “I didn’t know a hell of a lot before I studied phenology and morphology. I knew the plant was there and it grew grapes but that was about it.”
Thanks to Primary ITO, he now has a good grasp of canopy management and why certain tasks, such as removing excess canes and plucking leaves, were important. “I just thought we plucked leaves to let sunlight in to help the grapes ripen. But now I know it’s also crucial to let air flow into the vineyard to help with disease protection and prevent things like powdery mildew.”
Ed says the support he’s received from Matador Estate owner, John Webber, his employer, Dominic, his manager, Rebecca, and his Primary ITO training advisors, has been fantastic. “They’ve been really helpful and allowed me to work at my own pace. Having that flexibility is really important. Summer is really busy and I have three kids at home, so the winter months are usually when I hit the books and get my study done.”
While viticulture is an industry he admittedly “fell into”, Ed is keen to stay at Matador Estate and move up the ranks as he acquires more skills and knowledge.
“They’re great employers and I’m happy to stay but I’m also glad I’ve made the effort to get some qualifications. You get more enjoyment out of your job if you’re able to think about what you’re doing and why, instead of just doing what you’re told.”