BYÂ ARIELLE HARTMAN
After all the working, running, cooking, calling, texting, emailing, and trying to stay on top of current events we all do in our everyday lives, that much anticipated summer vacation seems like a beacon of hope and relaxation, pushing us forward through our hectic weeks.Â My ideal vacations included gently worn, beachside cottages, epic road trips with friends, wining and dining in the Italian countryside (when funds permitted, of course)… the list goes on and on, but the common thread was always that each vacation was no work, all play.Â However, my vacation standbys soon had another unlikely companion, one that seemed like work on the surface, but in reality has provided me with great memories, lasting friendships and important lessons about myself.Â This was not your run-of-the-mill frivolous vacation.
I’m talking farming here, one of the oldest professions in the world and one of the hottest topics in recent news as well.Â What started as a relatively plan-less summer turned into a unique experience that spawned my intense love affair with button squashes, heirloom tomatoes and the people that provide them.
With WWOOF.org, I was able to handpick an organic farm that fit both my interests and my preferred locale. Â World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, WWOOF for short, is a network organization that spans the globe and brings together active organic farms and curious everyday people who support organic food. Working as somewhat of a barter trade, farmers will take you in – house you, feed you and show you the ropes – and in return you provide an extra set of helpful hands on a real, working farm.
Joining WWOOF is by no means a free ride; farmers expect you to pull your own weight and become part of their farming family, tasks that sound harsh and formidable but, in my experience, come naturally and easily during your farm stay.Â Almost immediately, you develop a passion for your farm work, and suddenly all that hard work once built up in your head becomes enjoyable, perhaps even the highlight of your day.
Living on a farm is also a great social experiment, as WWOOF draws volunteers from all over the world, thus internationally broadening your circle of friends and acquaintances.Â Being thrown together and sharing this unbelievable experience, even if just for a week, promptly forges bonds between everyone, leaving all awkwardness aside right away.Â Â Sharing daily meals, fireside discussions, and impromptu bike riding competitions will leave you with warm memories and breathtaking photographs by the end of your stay.
Since it’s inception in England in 1971, WWOOF has grown exponentially and now includes over 43 different countries with their own WWOOF programs, many other independent countries with available organic sites and much support to create WWOOF sites in developing countries as well.Â Today, WWOOF is regarded to have made huge strides in the organics movement, continuously conscripting volunteers and garnering support from everyday people. By bringing together our food producers and consumers, we go beyond the cursory farmer’s market experience and create deep and personal relationships with these essential players that have lasting effects into the future.