Officer bridges Vietnamese gap

Vo The Truyen with WA vegetable growers Thu Van and Thin.
Camera IconVo The Truyen with WA vegetable growers Thu Van and Thin. Credit: Supplied

With one-third of all vegetable growers in WA first or second-generation Vietnamese, language has traditionally been a barrier to engagement for the State's vegetable growers association - vegetablesWA.

However, the employment of a Vietnamese-speaking extension officer has helped bridge the divide, enabling this large proportion of growers to benefit from vegetablesWA's programs and initiatives.

As vegetablesWA's first ever Vietnamese-speaking field extension officer, Vo The Truyen's role since starting nine months ago has focussed on building relationships with growers in key areas, including Albany, Manjimup, Donnybrook, Busselton, Perth, Geraldton and Carnarvon.

"Truyen applied for the role from New Zealand, where he was working with Land Care Research, " policy and program manager for vegetablesWA John Shannon said.

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"We're incredibly lucky to have him, given his professional and academic experience, which includes working for 11 years as a research scientist with Vietnam's Southern Fruit Research Institute and a master of science in pomology (fruit science)."

With much of the research and development provided for the national vegetable industry occurring in the Eastern States, WA growers have had little access.

For growers with English as a second language, access to information is further compounded.

"We've found through experience that educating growers on new research and development initiatives often requires more than providing information at a single setting, " Mr Shannon said.

"However, quite often new research is introduced to the vegetable-growing community at a one-off forum. But to feel confident in implementing new practices and technology, growers generally need more ongoing support and the level of support needed is even greater for growers from different cultural backgrounds."

Industry response to Truyen's role has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Mr Shannon.

"His engagement with the community and ability to provide translation services has enabled Vietnamese growers to participate for the first time ever in a range of industry meetings, " he said.

"This has led to a number of improvements to growing practices, from the introduction of pH soil testing to more complex pest and disease management.

"He has been instrumental in helping to achieve greater control of stable fly, which is a significant problem for our industry and the broader community in many parts of the State."

As testament to Truyen's early success in the role, a recent project on water efficiency attracted more Vietnamese-speaking growers than English speaking growers.

With English as his second language, Truyen understands firsthand the challenges facing many of the growers he works with.

"It is difficult to participate in research or benefit from research outcomes and advances in technology when English is not your first language, " Mr Truyen said.

"Surprisingly, a lot of the growers I have met with since taking on the role didn't even know that as growers … they were members of vegetablesWA and had no idea about the research being undertaken on their behalf.

"Now that this is all changing, I hope to also work with growers to gain an understanding of their issues and challenges."

This information will then be fed to vegetablesWA to ensure the broader industry and research providers are kept aware of issues important to growers.

"In this way the industry can more quickly and effectively address emerging issues, " Mr Shannon said.

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