The value of horticulturists

The great thing about going to corporate events is that you never know what stories, people or ideas will pop up. For instance at the end of August, I visited the Stokes Seeds Trail Gardens on a joint President’s Choice/ Stokes Seeds event in St. Catherines, Ontario. It turns out that the most engaging story for me was meeting Niagara College Coop student, Caitlin Ayling.

Caitlin Ayling, Stokes’ Horticultural Co-op student, Niagara College.


Caitlin, enrolled in the 2-year Horticultural Technician Co-op program at Niagara College, spent her co-op work placement at Stokes Seeds. The idea garden was her responsibility, from design, landscaping, picking seeds and growing. The results speak for themselves.  Caitlin knows what she is doing!

Vegetable garden 1

Stokes idea garden

I asked Caitlin why she had chosen horticulture as her career path.

“I think I decided to pursue horticulture because I just fell in love with the natural world,” says Caitlin. “There is so much to see and so much to learn, I feel being in this industry has opened up the whole world for me … how could you ever get bored?”

Caitlin chose job fulfillment over anything else.  It is certainly not the money. The average Horticultural Technician (HT) in Canada doesn’t make much. The Canadian national average is $25,940, which is 45 per cent lower than the nationwide average salary. The salaries of HTs range from $15,000 to $45,000, with most HTs making about $30, 000.

Put in another way, the 2011 Canadian poverty line figures (or Low Income Cut-offs) for 1 person released by Statistics Canada this year, ranges from $16,038 in rural areas to 23,298 in cities with more than ½ million people. And these are figures before taxes.

Assuming you work 50 weeks a year, 5 days a week 8 hours each day that calculates to  $8/hour to $11.65/hour. Minimum wage in Ontario is $10.25. Don’t work for minimum wage. Ever.

I wish I knew this figures before I became a horticulturist 30 years ago!  Information was harder to come by then, but I doubt I would have listened to anyone if they tried to burst my horticultural bubble. I don’t think it is any different today for young HTs.

Still, I will offer young HTs information that might help them map their own paths in the gardening world.  What you do with information is up to you, guys!


Where/who you work for matters.

  • Self-employed horticulturists have the highest earnings per year
  • Working for foundations or trusts comes close behind
  • Employees of private companies grabs the third spot.


As far as self-employment goes, make sure you take business and marketing courses. If you haven’t taken them while at college, you can take some inexpensive basic courses with continuing education. I did.


Know your hourly rates

As far as hourly wages goes, it pays to know the going rate for different places. Know the range of hourly wages you can get in each province. Try to negotiate for more. The Working in Canada website has the range for each province. Median is different from average. Median means most HTs make this amount.  Figures are for 2011/2012, except for New Brunswick, which are from 2006

Landscape and Horticulture Technicians and Specialists’ 20111/2012 Hourly Wage

Province Low Median High
Source: Working in Canada
Alberta 13.50 22.50 35.76
British Columbia 12.00 22.00 34.15
Manitoba 14.25 17.41 21.40
New Brunswick 10.00 15.70 20.04
Newfoundland & Labrador 14.00 16.00 21.00
Northwest Territories N/A N/A N/A
Nova Scotia 14.00 16.00 20.80
Nunavut N/A N/A N/A
Ontario 12.00 22.00 38.49
Prince Edward Island 14.00 15.98 20.57
Québec 14.00 16.34 23.05
Saskatchewan 14.00 17.00 23.79
Yukon N/A N/A N/A


Working in Canada breaks down the hourly rates to cities within each province. Check that out as well. You work hard for your money. Don’t accept minimum wage or the low end of your profession.  HTs are trained professionals.

Another aside. Canada is known for its gender inequity in income. “Canada sits behind Sri Lanka, Lesotho and Latvia, at No. 20, in a global measure of equality between men and women.” Globe and Mail


On average, the estimated earned income for Canadian women is $28,315 compared with $40,000 for men. Globe and Mail.

$3.57: Average amount by women earned less per hour than men for full-time work in Canada in 2012 (ranges from parity in PEI to $5.79 an hour in Alberta) Globe and Mail.


It is especially bad in the horticultural industry. And it has nothing to do with maternity leave. Believe me.

The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities surveyed 155 Landscape and Horticulture Technician graduates (who graduated between 1989 to 1999). In 1999, most men were making $27, 062 whereas most women were making $17,468. Men were making 55 per cent more than women!

Don’t accept the line that “guys work harder/lift more than you do, so they get paid more.” Women don’t get a discount on their HT education, so why should they be paid less?

The bottom line: if you work with awareness, you can have fulfilling work  and make a decent living as a horticulturist.  You are worth it.


Kudos to Stokes Seeds for hiring a HT Co-op student!

Edible flowers

Written by Cristina da Silva
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 in Soil People

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