Last week, I finished my stay at White Pine Farm in Michigan, and hit the road to Buckland Farm in Clearville, Pennsylvania. Buckland is a new farm, specializing in pigs, turkeys, chickens, and vegetables. Whereas at White Pine I was the only WWOOFer (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), at Buckland I am part of a small team. Everyone has diverse backgrounds, different levels and areas of expertise, and personal motivations for spending time farming. The diversity of farms, people, and activities makes WWOOFing accessible to everyone.
One of my favorite questions I like to ask other WWOOFers is: “why WWOOFing?” Surprisingly few give the “obvious” answer – that they want to own their own farm. Instead, the reasons are as variable as the WWOOFers themselves. Some (like me) have a genuine interest in food and/or gardening, which they want to pursue. Others seek to understand the food system as a whole – to experience first-hand where food comes from and how it gets to us.
Another common motivation is the desire to travel – on a budget. WWOOFing provides a way to see a country (or multiple countries!) at relatively little cost. You get first-hand experience in that community, and you can usually arrange day/weekend trips if you desire. With this urge to travel often comes an interest in nature and physical activity. WWOOFing provides a way for people to work the land with little risk. Farm life also provides much time for reading, meditation, study, and overall relaxation (a 40 hour work week is really not that much when work is right outside your door). Believe me, there is little as rewarding as finishing a day’s work, sitting down with a cool drink, and reading your favorite book for the evening – sans interruption.
Then, there is the social aspect. Working on a farm necessitates close social interaction with a wide array of individuals – from the owners of the farm, the other WWOOFers, customers and townspeople. Meals (usually eaten together) provide great opportunity for discussion (and sometimes debate) on all sorts of issues. WWOOFing will expose you to new ideas, views, and opinions. At the same time, you will meet like-minded individuals from all over the world.
The underlying motivation that I have found for most WWOOFers, however, is an interest in getting ‘back to basics’. For most of us, farming provides a break from the hustle and bustle of our ‘real’ lives, a change in routine, an overall new experience. Many WWOOFers are worried about the future of our food system, and many are discontent with the laziness of their daily lives. Many WWOOFers just want to experience a different lifestyle.
What I mean to point out is this: If you desire, on any level, to work on a farm – go for it. WWOOFing is not for everyone, but it should not be limited by age, fear, or unwillingness to break the routine of everyday life. You will gain an appreciation for food and farmers and an understanding of problems in our food system. You will experience a job that requires physical labor (which almost everyone can do!). You will give your mind a chance to rest and to grow. Most importantly, you will create relationships with individuals from all different walks of life.
If you would like to WWOOF, it is important to plan – decide your time frame and research the farm carefully. Talk with the owners before hand as much as possible, and find out if other people will be working there as well. Take care of as many of your responsibilities as you can before you leave so when you are on the farm you will be able to relax. Finally, be open to new experiences and ideas, but also understand your motivation. (In yoga, they often call this “setting your intention” for your practice). If you have an idea of what you want out of the experience, you will be able to get the most benefit for your time.
Cooking Tip of the Week: Have your herbs started to flower? Don’t just cut off the buds, use them! Chive, rosemary, and sage flowers all make great additions to salads.
Gardening Tip of the Week: If you feel like flies are taking over your backyard, try planting some basil. It is a natural fly repellent.
Alexis is pursuing her interest in sustainable agriculture and local food by spending the summer working on a sustainable farm in Ontario, Canada. During the school year, she studies French and Food Studies at NYU, and fulfills her addiction to farmers markets. Follow her farming journey.