Kathryns bio from the 2011 project.
Kath French-Nursery Manager, Grafton Production Nursery
I was attracted to working in nurseries because I like plants, the bush and working outdoors. I started as an Apprentice Nurseryperson at Muswellbrook Forest Nursery in 1985. This position was created under the Technical Jobs for Women program. I had already been studying Horticulture at TAFE in Newcastle which helped me greatly as an apprentice.
After completing my apprenticeship I applied for the Nursery Manager’s position and was successful. I worked as the Manager at Muswellbrook Nursery for 5 years then moved to Grafton in 1998 as the Nursery Manager. During the past 12 years at Grafton I have completed a Diploma of Horticulture, Certificate 4 Frontline Management, Certificate 4 in Training and Assessment and have been teaching horticulture part time at the local community college.

Women in non traditional occupations Nursery

Workplace safety is important to me and I have tried to set a good example for staff by actively participating on committees and involving them in all aspects of safe work principles.
I plan and organise work schedules for our permanent and casual staff who are involved in production and dispatch. Production scheduling involves many processes including sowing, tubing, setting cuttings, ordering materials, researching nursery production best practice and new innovations and technology, pest and disease management and nursery crop nutrition and plant health to ensure that orders are ready on time and of high quality. The dispatch process involves teams grading and sorting plants, netting seedlings where required, organising trucks and loading times, checking seedling quality and team outputs. In addition my role involves administering the financial side of the nursery as well as managing the team and liaising with customers and suppliers.

I enjoy planning and organising. One of the projects my team had to work on was growing F2 pine from cuttings. Due to a shortage of seed we have to grow F2 hybrid pine from cuttings which hadn’t been done before. Tip cuttings had to be taken from operational stock prior to being dispatched to the field and 30,000 seedlings kept as mother plants to manage shoots for the next production run. A new growing media was negotiated with our supplier and the propagation house equipped with heated beds and misting was utilised for the rooting of the cuttings. Staff had to be trained and teams organised for cutting, setting and filling trays. The first setting was successful. 65% of the cuttings had roots in 6 weeks and were hardened off and transferred into the nursery. The second setting has been more successful due to management of the mother plants providing the best cutting material (shoots). We are hoping to get between 80-90% success with this run.

There are always challenges in every occupation and ways to get around them whether it is managing staff issues, pest, disease or plant health issues, hail storms, irrigation failures, lack of infrastructure and equipment, having the materials or time to get the job done. You have just got to come up with another plan if things are not working out.
I think for women entering non-traditional occupations you must be passionate about what you do and be prepared for challenges. Be flexible and get on with all people.
Forests NSW have a male dominated workforce, I don’t really this as a challenge, you just get used to sometimes being the only female in the group.

Women in non traditional occupations Nursery manager


To have a chat about how I can help you, use the form or give me a call 0409813910


For lighting inquiries please call Auscrew 94274444 to check availablity.