Teacher Sharpens Chainsaw

January 11, 2017

Practical skills: Janine McDiarmid is amazed how much she has learned at EIT.

After 20 years as a teacher Janine McDiarmid (42) wanted a change but it took her a while to see the solution right in front of her.

She and husband Gerard own 16 hectares of grapes, including the iconic Brunton Road block. One night inspiration struck in the spa pool: why not do the same EIT Grapegrowing and Winemaking programme Gerard had done, then work together in their vineyards?

“We both wondered why we hadn’t thought of it earlier. We went down to EIT’s Rural Studies campus the next day and talked to (EIT viticulture and winemaking tutor) Brent Laidlaw about the Certificate in Grapegrowing and Winemaking. He told me about a scholarship and I decided to go for it. I was lucky enough to get the scholarship which made it possible to quit my job and study.”

Gerard – her husband of 12 years had completed the programme about 13 years ago and loved it.

“It got us to where we are now. I was teaching but when we got busy I’d help him out, but I didn’t understand what we were doing. Now I know what it’s all about, and it’s good.”
Janine says she was surprised at how much the programme covered.

“It’s full-on. It definitely keeps you busy, but what I know now compared to before we started is pretty amazing. My friends laugh when I say I can strip a chainsaw, sharpen
the chain, put it all back together, cut wood up, drive a tractor, a forklift . . . they think it’s hilarious. It’s not just the knowledge, it the practical skills I’m getting as well which is
pretty fun.”

With three children aged six, eight and 11, time management has been important to balance her academic pursuits with family life, but Janine also noticed her children – especially her 11 year old son – watching her learning journey with interest.

“It’s been good for my kids to see me making a change and learning and studying again and not doing the same old things. Especially my son – he thinks the training I have been doing
on quad bikes is pretty cool – going through drains, seeing how far it can safely go over .”

The first half of the programme focused mainly on grape-growing – physiology, trellising, spraying, and pruning, which got her thinking about converting to organic. Now she looks
forward to the other part of the programme – learning to make wine.

“It would be cool to get a small tank and make some wine for ourselves and our friends; just have a bit of a play around. I’m hoping that between us Gerard and I can extend what we
do, look after our property and other blocks, and I can help him when he gets busy and look after our kids as well.”