Quentin Larose, France's top horticulture student, is spending a year cycling through New Zealand with his sister, working on organic farms, while he ponders starting his own business.
Quentin, 21, and Nathalie, 24, stayed in New Plymouth with Richard and Diana Masters, who are part of the Wwoofing network. This is where they landed after cycling from Auckland airport with a long detour (unexpectedly on gravel) via Marakopa to avoid the Te Kuiti hills.
Now they are at Feilding, on a 64ha organic farm.
For the uninitiated, Wwoofing is an acronym for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Backpackers work on properties in exchange for accommodation and meals.
It's a well developed international network and the Masters have a stream of lodgers who keep the garden flourishing.
Larose graduated this year with a horticulture degree from Vert d'Azur agricultural school, run by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. He passed with honours and his marks were the highest in France.
He then represented his region of PACA (Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur) in the French round of the World Skills Competition, and won the horticulture section's demanding practical and theory tests. Other disciplines and trades include sewing, hairdressing, plastering, automotive painting, landscape gardening, bricklaying, aircraft maintenance, and so on.
His prize was an expenses-paid trip for two weeks to watch the world finals of World Skills in Calgary, Canada, value about 5000 euros (NZ$10,000). He didn't compete because it's too difficult to standardise horticulture due to the climatic differences of the participating nations.
At Calgary in September 1-7, 900 competitors participated in 45 skills ranging from fashion technology to mobile robotics.
"With my degree I can do many things, but I don't know what I want to do yet," says Quentin. "I've come to New Zealand to think about it. Maybe I will stay in this country.
"What I really like doing is growing decorative flowers, especially small ones.
"But what I've discovered in my study is that people first need to eat, then have a beautiful garden. So maybe it's better to grow veges and fruit.
"I want to have my own business, maybe growing organic produce. I want to be self- employed." He says the supermarkets are a big problem in France. They have very low prices based on volume trading. "Maybe if you produce something high quality organic, you can price it higher.
I want people to buy at my garden gate.
"There is a new thing starting in France: The consumer pays maybe $50 a week to a farmer for the seasonal veges and fruit that he produces. That's getting quite popular. Normally he will sell in a big co-operative, but he can get better money selling direct to the public. There's also pick your own market gardens." Is there a place in the modern world for Quentin to have his own business and sell at a profit? "I don't know, perhaps I am too young and idealistic yet," he says. "But maybe it would work better here because of your respect for the environment."
Nathalie is a marketing assistant. She finished her studies a year ago and then worked for a firm selling electrical equipment. At the end of her contract, she decided to travel because she is also looking for options and answers. Quentin says it's unusual for a brother and sister to cycle travel together, "but we have got a very good relationship and share the same hobbies."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Will farmer-driven meat reforms work?Related story: Market dominance not meat industry answer