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John Mason Profile

John Mason 2011 Profile

John Mason is an garden writer and publisher.

He completed a Diploma in Horticultural Science at Burnley in 1971, and joined the AIH only a few years later. Over 40 years he has been a Nurseryman, Landscaper, Parks Director, Horticultural Consultant, Magazine Editor, and author of 45 books. Today he owns and operates ACS Distance Education; a business employing over 40 people, encompassing schools in both Australia and England; an ebook publishing house (www.acsebook.com) and a franchise-like system that supplies 500 different distance education courses (over 150 in horticulture), to seventeen different colleges spread across five countries (www.acs.edu.au/about-us/affiliates.aspx).
 
John Mason on the future of horticulture:
Change is a certainty; but I've noticed after 50 years that history repeats itself; and often trendy ideas today that are being presented as the "latest thing" are often reflections of the past. Certain types of plants go out of favour; then come back into favour. Certain styles of gardening lose popularity, then re-emerge a decade or two later as supposedly "something that has never previously been thought of".
A good knowledge of garden history can be a remarkably useful tool for seeing opportunities before your competitors do.
 
Other things about horticulture have however changed, and will never be the same:
 
1. Globalisation -the world has gradually moved from being lots of largely disconnected small regional horticulture industries to become a series of national industries. We're now heading toward one huge interconnected international industry.
 
2. Technology -the impact of technology keeps increasing, and will continue to increase. The people who embrace science and technology are in the main-the ones who are most successful. There has been a tendency in the past for some people in our industry to be reserved about embracing technology; and others to be too gung ho!  Those who have jumped too soon or delayed, have both often suffered. You cannot avoid technology; but applying it to a horticultural enterprise must be timed just right.
 
3. Intelligence - intelligence has never before been as important in our industry. The world is changing rapidly, and to achieve a sustainable career or business, a horticulturist must be well connected with their peers, well educated, and informed better than their competition.  Sadly research and education is increasingly under funding pressures, and many young people who enter the industry are not joining professional bodies, and developing relationships with colleagues.
 
4.  Environmental Trends – the need for plants to offset environmental problems and feed a growing world is obvious. Currently this need is increasing as environmental problems grow. Money and politics however remain a more powerful force, hence environmental action is still not being taken. At some point in the future the scales will tip; eventually, environmental problems and food issues will overwhelm us to such a degree that massive change will occur. When that occurs, horticultural knowledge and skills will be the most highly sought after commodities on the planet.
 
5. Attitudes - The world is driven by attitudes. People have unhealthy attitudes toward many things in our modern, fast-paced society. Career expectations are unrealistic. Eating and lifestyle habits are unhealthy. The belief that learning can be fast-tracked is ignorant. People have lost the ability to communicate. The horticulture industry is affected by all of these issues. You cannot keep pumping the accelerator on a car without increasing the chance of a crash.
 
The world is changing faster than ever.
Our future is challenging and exciting. Our greatest challenge though is to be prepared to deal with it properly.  
I don't particularly think that we need people with degrees, diplomas or certificates in the industry; but we do desperately need people who have a great capacity to solve problems, think laterally and come up with creative solutions, manage themselves well, understand the technology and science that underpins horticulture to the same level that a scientist does; and know their plants very well. Plant knowledge remains the foundation for this industry. When I graduated, I was told that we needed to be able to identify 2,000 plants before we started our career – and this wouldn't be a bad rule of thumb to return to.
 
 
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Regards
John Mason
john@acs.edu.au
www.acs.edu.au
www.acsedu.co.uk

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