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@BordersCollege prides itself on being a globally engaged institution and a recent international online visit to Holland highlighted this.

The Dutch are some of the world leaders in growing and selling flowers, with Holland known as the largest flower shop in the world. So where better for Borders College Horticulture students to experience first-hand the commercial production of flowering plants.

The students, along with lecturer Nigel Gibb, recently linked up with Dutch grower Maarten Westerbos to get an insight into growing and selling flowers on an industrial scale.

Set up through Microsoft Teams, Nigel introduced Maarten to the students and talked a little about his experiences working for Maarten as a student in Holland back in 1999. A series of maps were used to allow the students to see where Maarten’s business was based in relation to the Scottish Borders.

Maarten was delighted to be given the opportunity to talk about his business and began with a tour of his commercial glasshouses, based in Aalsmeer, close to the city of Amsterdam.

He talked about various plant species that his company produce and showed the students the equipment and processes used in potting and planting, as well as introducing them to his workforce.

Maarten took questions from the students and spoke in-depth about sustainability, climate effect on growth and combating disease in plants.

Selling most of his plants through the largest plant and flower auction in the World in Aalsmeer, he also spoke to the students about the importance of producing his products to a high standard and how this can affect the price at auction.

A second session was also delivered on the day from Maarten’s home town of Nieuwveen, with a tour of the impressive glasshouses and a lesson on how water from Holland’s famous canals is used in the production process.

Nigel Gibb commented:

“This was a great opportunity to link up with my former employer to help give our students an insight into the commercial production of plants in Holland. It allowed our students to realise the potential of being able to use the transferable skills learnt on our Horticultural course at home and abroad.

“Our students were very enthusiastic and engaged to be able to ask questions freely and to improve their knowledge and understanding. I am very grateful to Maarten for giving up two hours of his working day to do our online link up. We plan to try and do this with some other growers in the near future.”

The tour ended with Maarten talking about the future of the industry and encouraged the students to develop a passion for plant growing and take every opportunity in their careers.

Mary Thomson, Curriculum Learning Manager for Rural Skills, commented:

“Nigel has supported the Horticulture students in building global connections through this excellent guest lecture. The Horticulture department also maintains an excellent regional focus through our networks including community projects with local groups such as Newtown in bloom and partnership working with Mertoun Estate.

“In the future, we hope that our Dutch colleagues might have an opportunity to visit us in the Scottish Borders.”

The College hopes to build on its relationship with Maarten and the opportunity of future engagement and possible work placements for the students was discussed – an exciting prospect for everyone involved.

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