Joel Smith: Winner of the Sir John Pagan Award 2017

Joel Smith was this year’s recipient of the Sir John Pagan Horticultural BBM Award for a young horticulturist under 24 and is our last interview of those very deserving young people.

Joel Smith and Wayne Van balen

Where are you from and what lead you to horticulture?

I Grew up on acreage in Nana Glen on the north Coast of NSW. As a child I loved interacting with the local sclerophyll forest as well as the gardens on the property, it led me to develop an interest in plants and the outdoors.

At Coffs Harbour High School, we had great teachers and a great agriculture program, the occasional excursion to the wonderful biodiverse Dorrigo National Park was always very inspiring and memorable.

Shortly after I finished my HSC, I started looking for apprenticeship in the horticulture trade. I knew I wanted to work outdoors, and when I found my horticulture apprenticeship at Taronga Zoo Sydney, I decided it was an amazing learning opportunity that I couldn’t refuse

There are so many amazing gardens to see in the UK, and so many skills I hope to learn. I’m still in the early stages of planning my journey, I know It’s going to be great...

You have the BBM Award, what are you planning to do?

Thanks to the support of BBM and the AIH I will be traveling to the UK on the journey of a lifetime, my intent is to learn as much as possible about horticulture.

I am planning to gain experience working in Kew Gardens, London Zoo, and the prestigious Chelsea Flower show. Relevant to my current work I’ll be visiting a conference on zoo horticulture in Dublin.

On my journey I’d like to focus on learning how horticulture can be used to bring about positive changes in the lives of people that are vulnerable or disadvantaged. I hope to work with an organisation named Thrive who specialize in horticultural therapy.

As a stopover on the return journey I’d like to visit and work alongside parks and gardens teams in Singapore. There are so many amazing gardens to see in the UK, and so many skills I hope to learn. I’m still in the early stages of planning my journey, I know It’s going to be great.

What are your plans for the next 5 years?

Upon my return from Europe, I’ll want to share my learnings and experiences with BBM, the AIH, my colleagues, and my family and friends.

To advance my career I know that I want to continue formal studies in horticulture or a related field to learn even more about plants. I’d like to pursue this soon, whilst at the same time advocating for the benefits of horticulture in parks and community gardens. I hope to gain the ability to lead and engage people to get outside, create wonderful gardens, and enjoy the sunshine.