Down to Earth: Explore Organic Farming

Adam, a WWOOF volunteer, made the most of the growing season at Jim Long’s herb farm.

| October/November 2009

  • By Jim Long

I first learned about WWOOFers through Kyle Christensen, a former editorial assistant at The Herb Companion who left the publishing world for WWOOFing. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) began in New Zealand and spread worldwide. Kyle traveled for much of a year, spending from two weeks to two months on organic farms across New Zealand and Australia. Because of his stories about the wonderful families he met and the WWOOFers he encountered, I enrolled as a host farm in the WWOOF directory.

Over the past two years, we’ve enjoyed a diverse assortment of WWOOFers at Long Creek Herb Farm. The youngest was 18, WWOOFing through a gap year before college; the oldest a couple near retirement who came to work during their summer vacation.

WWOOF volunteers labor for five hours a day, five days a week, in exchange for learning organic agriculture techniques. They pay their own transportation, while the responsibility of the farmer is to provide food and lodging. It’s an outstanding opportunity for both the volunteers, who learn from experts, and for the farmers, who benefit by seeing their operations through fresh eyes.

Our first and most diligent WWOOFer of this past season was Adam, a 23-year-old artist and recent graduate of the Art Institute of Philadelphia. He had volunteered on other farms previously, but came to us specifically to learn about culinary herb growing. I had surgery in January of last year and told him I was nearly desperate to see the garden underway in May. Adam agreed to arrive early.

From the start, Adam had clear goals. He wanted to know what it takes to grow herbs of all kinds, and wanted to explore turning those crops into meals.

As the planting season came to a close, Adam began planning for a move to another farm where he might be needed more. I urged him to consider staying an entire season, so as to see the maintenance of crops and the harvest season, as well as planting. He had never experienced an entire season from beginning to end, so he decided to stay until fall.

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