Well I finally did it! This morning at 09:15 CET on Monday 29th March 1999 I rang the Centre de Formation de Kergadalen, Saint Segal, and waited. Dreadful moments those as I was shifted from department to department until I finally found someone who had a copy of the results. Then a wait of a few minutes while my name was located.

By the time the answer came back, my fingers were locked on the back of the chair and Iím sure my blood pressure would have given a doctor cause for concern. All that to calmly be told that I now had passed all the exams necessary to gain the right to the diploma. Well, sort of.

Two parts to the diploma are needed. Firstly the exams. These consist of a series of fourteen tests, two of which are oral. These tests are called UCís and UCAREís. In order to pass it is necessary to succeed in all the UCís and three out of the four UCAREís. I already knew I had the four UCAREís but had to wait till this morning to find out if I had passed all the UCís; if I had just failed one of them I would of failed the entire course. To give you an idea of what the course covered, Iíll list them.

UC1(1)

Basic Notions. Covers a bit of everything to do with veterinary care, milking, feeding, digestion and all sorts of other stuff.

UC1(2)

Basic Notions. Section Agronomy. Plant life, photosynthesis, respiration, absorption, transpiration etc.

UC2(1)

Reasoning Capability. This is one of the big ones and is saved up until the end of the course. You are presented with questions such as; you have 60 cows. You want such-and-such an amount of milk. How much land do you need? Will you plant corn? How much will you plant if so? What rations will you feed? Etc, etc. Get this wrong by more than a couple of hectares and you fail.

UC2(2)

Reasoning Capability Agronomy. The other big one, and just as hard. A classic example here would be wheat. When do you plant? How much? How deep? Would you use weedkiller? What would you use to sow with? Would you use pesticides? If so what ones, when and how much? How much fertiliser would you need based on the attached soil analysis? Would you add anything else? When would you harvest? Why? Etc, etc. Again, if you say something stupid or not too well thought out, you fail.

UC3

Mathematics. Basic level, sort of stuff a farmer uses day to day, stops short of trigonometry even, so not hard at all. With my background in electronics, these lessons were fun!

UC4(1)

French. Written exam to test you ability to communicate. Basic level stuff such as letters and ability to analyse. Again very basic lever stuff but this was hard for me; Iím not French!

UC4(2)

French Oral Exam. Ability to explain ones self and communicate in a professional capacity. Again, basic stuff but again this one was a worry for me.

UC5

Practical Course Report, section 1. At the end of the study course, itís necessary to undertake six weeks practical off at a farm someplace. When finished you have to hand in a report with a critical analysis of the farm where you worked. Both technical and financial analysis must be made, comparisons with other producers in a similar group and with government statistics.

UC6

Accountancy.

UC7

Practical Course Report, section 2. Oral presentation of the report using OHP and whatever else you feel you need before a jury, you have to convince the jury that you understand what youíve put in the report and believe me, they ask some downright hard questions. Make sure everything in the report makes sense, if there is a hole in your reasoning they will find it, and you fail.

UCARE8

Practical. This is an exam that tests all the practical knowledge you should of gained in the four and half months you spend working on the collegeís farm. Milking, reproduction, sanitary practice, record keeping, veterinary care etc.

UCARE9

Meat Production. All that concerns the production and sale of cattle meat. As well as the care and practises of herd management it goes into meat marketing, market forces and the GATT world trade agreement.

UCARE10

Accountancy Bookkeeping or Environmental Care. I chose the book keeping option as now I can keep my own records and just need the accountant to rubber stamp my results at the end of the year. Saves money.

UCARE11

Machinery Maintenance. Covers the use and maintenance of things such as tractors, ploughs, muck spreaders, sprayers, fertiliser spreaders, cutting bars, seeders etc. Also requires basic knowledge and test pieces on electrical installations, plumbing, welding. I also chose to do a bit of Oxy-Acetylene gas cutting; not in the exam but fun none the less.

 

The second part of the diploma is what they refer to as Ďprofessional activityí. Now here is where I have a cause of disagreement with the French administration. Despite the fact that Iíve worked in England for ten years, ending up as manager of a television and video retail outlet, Iíve not worked much in France, and the administration will only accept work Iíve done in France. To them, itís as if Iíve never worked at all.

Iíve managed to get the situation under control now. I have been given the possibility of a Ďderogationí, that is to say a Ďwaiver of needí. In other words, they may look the other way and pretend I have the required Ďprofessional activityí even when, according to French law, I havenít. This means that after all this work; I will not receive my diploma. They will sit on it and not actually give me my bit of paper until I finish the necessary year of French activity. I hope that due to the Ďderogationí they will accept the work I will be doing on my own farm as such activity. Therefore, about a year after I start I may actually receive my printed diploma to put on the wall! (One finds the French administration somewhat bloody-minded at times).

So finally, after what seems like an age Iím free to continue my battle to become a French farmer in my own right. Next step is another course, an obligatory one that covers all the administrational affairs necessary in setting up your own business. This is one day a week over the course of about two months. At the end of this my dossier goes before the government and is debated. If I get a yes (which can take up to eight months), then I start my farm!