You never hear in school someone wanting to be a gardener - but that's exactly what Whangārei wahine Nadia Pavlovich did when she quit her engineering degree to become a professional gardener.
On a regular day, you will find 22-year-old Nadia Pavlovich covered in soil, single-handedly chasing 31 hens and two roosters, looking after 10 honeybee hives and growing a variety of organic fruits and veggies on her 1,000 sqm garden in Glenbervie.
What started out as a product of Pavlovich's undiagnosed illness, Nadia's Whole Garden is now an organic market garden selling directly from the farm to customers.
Pavlovich was studying chemical engineering in the US and decided to come home (Whangārei) for the summer break there in July 2019. At the time, she was training as a professional athlete and had also won the NCAA championship in the States.
However, soon after returning to New Zealand, she got really sick and ended up in hospital for three weeks.
It was pretty much downhill from there, Pavlovich said.
"I vomited continuously, lost 17 kgs, I couldn't walk or even shower myself. I couldn't hold anything down, food or even water.
"One day it stopped but the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with me.
"It was all a big shock. All of a sudden I started eating and drinking again. I believed that I was fine and started to walk again, trying to get back some normalcy."
After recovering, Pavlovich moved back to the US but her mother had to fly her home within a month, as her health deteriorated further.
"Nothing I was eating seemed to be processed right. I was lacking energy, vomiting all the time, and in the end I called my parents and said I need an out.
"I spent the next three months getting tested like a lab rat as doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with me. They found that I couldn't process any sugar."
To date, and the easiest way to explain it, the most sugar Pavlovich could eat in a whole day was half a banana.
She had no enzymes to process the sugar. And it was just a symptom, not a cause; the cause was never diagnosed to date.
However, it was a wake-up call for Pavlovich, who stopped eating packaged food, started focusing on a healthy diet and relied on fresh veggies and fruit.
"I started feeling better and slowly recovered after six months. I was, however, bedridden the whole time.
"During that period, I realised that before any illness would make me insane, doing nothing would make me insane.
"I went from a very high-paced lifestyle, very busy, to suddenly being able to do nothing. I couldn't play water polo anymore, I couldn't train or anything."
While resting at home, Pavlovich decided to plant some seeds in her home garden.
"I would water them every morning, sit with plants and honestly, without it I don't think I would have ever recovered. It was one thing to focus on apart from being sick.
"It brought me closer to the world of nature and it was a very humbling experience."
The young gardener started doing research on market gardening and realised it was what she wanted to do.
"I was looking into how food was grown and I was just shocked. I thought there was a better way to do it, so I started to research no-dig market gardening.
"At this point, I was feeling a lot better, so I decided to go back to my engineering degree.
Then when the pandemic hit they were making me repeat a lot of the stuff I had done in the States. I was quite bored and decided to be a market gardener."
"Everyone talks about becoming a doctor, engineer, or joining a mainstream profession in high school, but you never hear of someone wanting to become a gardener."