If you know anything about me, you’d know that I’m a planner, and a meticulous one at that. I like to know everything I can, evaluate my options and organize possibilities before committing to anything. However, with W.W.O.O.F., I was going in blind. I had no idea what kind of work I would be doing, how our days went, who else would be there, how often I would get to see Colin, what my sleeping arrangement would be, or how I would even begin to wrap my mind around not knowing all these things. Ready or not, Colin dropped me off on Tuesday and I began my five-week W.W.O.O.F. adventure.
Before I dive into my week, I will further explain what W.W.O.O.F. is. W.W.O.O.F. stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. “Organic” meaning non-GMO and no use of pesticide or herbicide. The “willing” part is exactly how it sounds: I’m volunteering for this position (my “payment” is in room and board).
The farm was about fifteen minutes away from Colin’s house and we both got a tour when he dropped me off. The farm is ten acres and consists of about 2,000 pine trees, thousands of birds, a green house, two sizable fields and other smaller planting areas, growing all sorts of vegetables. Soon after I got to the farm, I was put to work.
My host’s name is Pam, she’s a soft spoken middle-aged woman with a dry sense of humor. She was very welcoming when I first came and she has been hospitable ever since. There are two other people here: Jason (22) and Dominique (23), who are both interns, as well as a furry friend, a Golden Retriever, Eh Htoo (“Golden love”), who takes all the attention she can get.
A typical day on the farm goes something like this:
- 8:00 AM: Eat breakfast and discuss what needs to be done for the day
- 9:00 AM: Start working
- 1:00 PM: Hour-long lunch break
- 7:00 PM: Eat dinner
- 8:00 PM: Wrap up any unfinished tasks
The only times this daily scheduled may be altered is when we take our products to the market. There are three markets: Thursdays in London and Saturdays and Sundays in Stratford. Pam takes one of us with her while the other two stay on the farm and follow the typical daily schedule. Upon return from the market, the person who accompanied Pam gets the afternoon or the rest of the day off.
We take turns making dinner; whoever cooks get to end their work early and whoever doesn’t cook washes the dishes. I think it’s a pretty fair system Pam has in place. We eat almost exclusively organic food and all of our meals are vegetarian.
Tuesday, 2 June: I won’t lie, my first day was difficult. The work was overwhelming and it was hard being away from Colin, even though I’ll be seeing him frequently over the next few weeks. Jason, Dominique and Pam showed me the ropes of planting seedlings and watering the sprouts that afternoon. After a few days, I was more or less adjusted to living and working on the farm.
Wednesday, 3 June: We spent most of our work day preparing for the London market the following morning. Dominique and I made the salad mix in the morning and planted seedlings for the remainder of the day.
Thursday, 4 June: My first market experience was in London, which also happened to the first time we made an appearance at that location this season. The market was set in the familiar area of downtown London. In fact, it was right across the street from Budweiser Gardens, where I have attended a few hockey games (go, Knights!). We set up outdoors in the courtyard of a permanent indoor market, which was quite delightful. We didn’t have much to sell this week, but our products included sprouts (our most popular item), beans, Thai chili and salad. There were about six other vendors and Pam seemed to know them all. When the farmer’s market ended early in the afternoon, we packed up and drove back to the farm.
Friday, 5 June: It was Colin’s birthday, so I took off for the evening after a day of planting seedlings and stayed the night. We ate dinner, cake and watched Arrested Development. It was a much needed relaxed evening. I’m looking forward to the time we’ll be spending together over the next few weeks, I can’t think of a better way to spend my days off.
I’m still getting used to the large amount of work and the long days, but I’m starting to better understand what is expected of me. Despite my rocky start, I’m looking forward to the remainder of my experience.