To outsiders, it might have looked as though Aucklanders Emma Adams and Aaron Walden had the perfect careers and lifestyle.
The young couple had great jobs – Emma was working in television as a media services specialist and Aaron was working as an engineer – but they had come to realise it wasn’t right for them.
They both had a yearning for something different and now, thanks to SIT2LRN’s New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture (General) (Level 3) programme, they’re living their dream.
Emma grew up on a beef farm and kiwifruit orchard in Hahei, Coromandel, and completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (film) in Christchurch before shifting to Auckland in 2010 after securing a job in television.
She met Aaron, who had grown up in Auckland, in 2017 by a “chance encounter”. He’d completed an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering and had been working as an engineer for 10 years.
“We moved in together in 2018 into a small Auckland townhouse but we both had itchy feet to move out of the big smoke and move to the country for a better lifestyle.”
Her parents still owned the kiwifruit orchard she had grown up on and they agreed it made sense to see if there was an opportunity to manage the orchard to keep it in the family, Emma said.
“Initially they were actually apprehensive because they thought we had the careers and lifestyle we wanted, but that wasn't the case.
“So, we took it upon ourselves to learn a foundation in horticulture and show them we were serious.
“We wanted to study while still working, so we searched for horticulture certificates that could be studied remotely and when we found SIT2LRN’s course with its Zero Fees Scheme, we were sold.”
Although both found the study challenging at times, they had the shared desire, will and motivation to read, learn and achieve, she said.
“We mapped out our weekends to complete assessments. It certainly helped that we could learn together and support each other, but also it was nice to interact and learn with other students too.”
They were soon able to make another visit to the Coromandel and found persistence paid off.
“We asked my parents the question again and were able to show our enthusiasm for what we were learning on the course. This aligned with their orchard manager wanting to semi-retire and my parents agreed for us to take over the orchard.”
The couple said goodbye to Auckland in 2019 and began learning the ropes.
“Now we’re in our second season and have taken on the responsibility of managing the orchard. We’ve taken to it like ducks to water and we haven't looked back,” she said.
The pair are full of praise for SIT2LRN and the course, and constantly see the benefits of the effort they put into the study, Emma said.
“We’ve found the course extremely beneficially as we are putting the theory into practice every day. It’s given us a really good grounding and an ongoing interest to learn more, although now it’s more specifically about kiwifruit plants!”