I feel like I’ve kept my anger towards my lack of employment opportunities on the down low. I have had no paid employment since December, and although I embarked on a new journey to fill my time (re: farming – see Farming Gives You Balls), I am utterly and ecstatically pleased to say that I am deviating onto another path – onto that of architecture and urban design in one of the most culturally rich cities in the world: London.
My journey on farms, and more importantly the WWOOF program (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is coming to an end in less than a week (see what inspired it here). Over the last 3 months I’ve listened, learned, and pondered not only the practicalities of farming, but also the societal, economic, and environmental aspects of it. So I’m going to compile a list of tips for all of you future WWOOFers to consider before you immerse yourself in farm life.
1. Get down with the lingo.
WWOOF sounds like some weird hippie cult, and being referred to as a ‘WWOOFer’ makes you seem like you’re…
a) Really bad at drinking and are often found throwing up in the bathroom, or;
b) A leader of said hippie cult.
Well you’re not wrong for either option as WWOOFers who are WWOOFing are generally pretty strange individuals in comparison to the norm as they are fighting an upwards battle for climate change and food security. However, if you’re into that sort of thing and have even the slightest bit of environmental consciousness, then you’ll fit in. Also, maybe check out Wikipedia for climate change just so you can be up to speed on the latest news and conspiracy theories to bust out to make everyone angry.
2. Make a list of your needs.
Most people go WWOOFing for one of three reasons…
1) They’re running away from something – the law, a relationship, family problems, the ‘real world’.
2) They are running out of money and free room + board is a good option while you figure out your next move.
3) They genuinely want to learn how to become a farmer, and are part of the ever-growing movement towards a farming renaissance.
So with that being said, decide on your ‘needs’ and find a place that suits all of your necessities. If you’re a social person, don’t kid yourself that a farm that’s 30 miles from the nearest pub will work for you. It won’t and you’ll hate your life.
If you’re really pissed off at the world and want to get your frustration out by digging in the dirt, don’t go to a commune. You’ll hate your life.
To give you an idea of what I mean, I like to be within 1 mile walking distance of a public transportation line, have some local amenities but still jaunt through the countryside. I like to have weekends off, and to have a flexi-time work schedule (just because I was going to interviews). Education-wise, I like for the farm to practice different agricultural methods than I’m used to so that I can learn.
There are so many options for hosts all over the world that you can be stingy with your ‘list’ and still find some place where you can learn, get away, or save money.
3. Keep a diary.
Whether it’s on Instagram (check out my journey through photos and video on @nwordenrogers), WordPress, Facebook, or telling your Mom the things you learned each day, it is important to be able to look back on all of the things that you’ve learned and see the personal growth that you’ve endured over x-many weeks.
4. Stick with it.
Within the first few weeks that I was WWOOFing I seriously doubted my decision and wanted to bolt back to my unemployed life in Cardiff quicker than you could call the cows home. Realise that it takes some settling in and adjustment. You’re going to be doing things that are really f*cking hard – I spent 2 weeks, for 8 hours each day shoveling hundreds of wheelbarrow loads of gravel to make paths. Your body is going to ache, you’re going to get pissed off with the people you’re working with (and probably the weather as well), but at the end of it you’ll realise that everything has an ending. Each task finishes and then you’ll never have to do that same task again (hopefully). While the task may seem to go on for ages, there will be a break (no slave labour!), and you will come out on top. The same goes for adjusting to the WWOOF lifestyle – you will adapt to appreciate where you are and the things you’re doing. And if not…well, there are loads of other hosts that you can move on to visit if your place isn’t working out (and remember that people typically stick in one spot for only 2 weeks to a month per farm!).
5. Be open to new things.
This is probably one of the most important things to be aware of. You’re being welcomed into the homes of individuals who have routines, have their livelihoods, and are experts in their own unique ways – be open to learning from them. With farm hopping comes new stories, new knowledge, and new opinions. Welcome these with open arms because they’re unlike any thing I have ever experienced. Typically we converse with our friends (who are our age) that we’ve met through various educational institutions, or family members. WWOOFing allows the interaction between individuals of all ages, cultures, and ethnicities who are working in the environmental sector (who, depending on their motives to be there, may or may not actually care about the environment). This makes for a seriously mixed bag of opinions that can be pelted at you, and as long as you’re open to hearing new opinions, can make for a period of growth. Otherwise you’ll probably end up arguing a lot.
…And finally – don’t get exploited.
I’ve heard the horror stories of people who have gone to remote farms that boast beautiful countryside where you live harmoniously with chickens who lay golden eggs, and run around in flower-filled meadows while working 3 hours per day. When in reality the farm is run by starving vegans, and workers have to live on water and bread while working from dawn to dusk. If you’re thinking of WWOOFing, make sure you check out how many hours the hosts are expecting you to work and hold them to it. If they want you to work 10 hours to get a project done and you’re down with that, agree to it, but tell them you’re taking an extra day off at the weekend. Slave labour isn’t cool.
Reflecting on the last three months, I’ve had a lot of fun and have learned a lot about farming as well as myself. I’ve realised that I take stability for granted; that although I get itchy feet to travel, I love having my own space to return to. I’ve realised how much I enjoy city life and the fantastic culture that surrounds it, but also need green space to roam and some dirt where I can get my hands dirty. I’ve figured out what makes me happy, and am using it to influence my next chapter in a city of 13 million inhabitants. People have made numerous comments about the culture shock associated with moving from farm life to London life, but luckily I’ve managed to find a house on the Thames, the backyard has a pond with ducks, and to get to the supermarket I walk through a 35-acre urban farm with pigs, llamas, and sheep. Here’s to one chapter closing and another beginning – enjoy some of the photos I’ve snapped over the last few months. Next stop: London!
The cockerel overlooking his kingdom.
A Khaki Campbell taking a break from sluggin’.
Baby chicks on the first day of spring!
Whatchu lookin’ at?
My 1960’s caravan in mustard and floral – how much more of a 60’s vibe can you get?!
The first chick, Fluffy, from our incubated experiment. No, that is not scrambled eggs in my bowl.
I call this one roast chicken – the first hot day!
Cherry blossoms in March, ahhh.