From Foodie to Farmer: Why I Chose to WWOOF
By Katie O'Connor
I was not your typical nursing student during college. You could say I was a little “different.” Somehow everyone seemed to realize this except for me! I took canoeing and sea kayaking courses, and wrote funny songs about my experiences in nursing school. I was not prepared to start working as a nurse after graduation. So instead, I decided to leave the country for two months to travel and work on a farm. What? Doesn’t every nurse do that?
And what did I do while away? I WWOOF'ed.
You read correctly. World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is an organization that gives “wwoofers” the opportunity to learn from organic farmers of all kinds. Horses, sheep, tea, pineapples: the possibilities are endless! All you have to do is sign up for a membership online with the country you wish to work in (the fee is around $30) and you will be given access to countless listings of farms that need your help.
Here’s the deal: You connect with the farm of your choice, travel there, and work in exchange for housing and delicious, fresh, organic food. If you want to learn about farming and are a food-lover like myself, this is an opportunity you do not want to miss.
So I signed up and soon found myself on a sustainable farm in central Italy. There was a wonderful family there; a lovely woman from California, her Italian husband (they met in sustainable agriculture school and he swept her away to create this farm) and their two young, blonde-Italian boys. It was such a treat to hear them shift back and forth between English and Italian. They were incredible, and so was their home.
It was a large, picturesque farmhouse at the bottom of a hill that had lines of apple trees drawn all the way to the top and into the fields beyond it. They had olive trees, grapevines, chickens, goats, ducks, a cow, a goose, and every berry, fruit tree, and vegetable you can think of! They worked and lived off their land completely, and I was there to be a part of it.
The stone house had a naturally cool basement where I resided, which was ideal in the Summer heat. I had a cot, a bathroom with a shower, and a small kitchen for cooking breakfast and lunch. We ate dinner together, the mother cooking most nights. Our favorite activity each meal was to pick out what the farm did not produce, as this list was much shorter than the alternative!
The strong Italian sun raised temperatures to 105 degrees on some days. This meant getting up at the crack of dawn, working for a few hours in the morning until is was too hot to breathe, and then starting back up again in the cooler evening finishing around sundown. Each morning I fed the chickens,“the babes” as we called them, and gave them water, . Next I watered the gardens, and began working on my big task of the day. For me, this was a lot of irrigating apple trees, harvesting berries and vegetables, mulching, weeding, spreading manure, and even milking goats!
It was one of the greatest adventures of my life, I could truly write a novel about it.
My experiences WWOOFing enriched my life and curiosity about farming. I learned first-hand how much work is put into the food we eat everyday, the importance of growing and eating organic, and in the end, even a little bit of Italian. Ciao!
Katie is a yoga doin’, food lovin’, singin’ adventure lady. She finds herself smiling while paddling a canoe, hiking in the Whites, and playing music around campfires with friends. As a registered nurse and yoga teacher , she hopes to help others find wellness in a holistic way. Check out Katie and her contagious energy, here.
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