South Florida: Agritourism at its Best

Healthy lifeJust a hop skip and a jump – about a half hour drive – south of the gilded enclave that is Coral Gables and the magnificent Matheson Hammock Park, is the thriving agricultural community of Homestead. This area makes a great getaway from big-city Miami and the South Beach sceneHomestead FL fruit stand with imaginative, naturally-filtered swimming pools at the Everglades Hostel & Tours, to a world class fruit and veggie stand, cleverly named Robert is Here. Who knew you could enjoy fresh dragonfruit, mango, durian and mamey, to eat there, take home, or -fantastic idea- enjoy in a made-on-the-spot smoothie or milkshake. Proprietor Robert is actually there, as is his book, Robert Is Here: Looking East For A Lifetime, an inspiration to the self-sufficient and agriculturally interested everywhere.

Nearby is Paradise Farms Organic, the brainchild of Gabriele Marewski, a thriving Bed and Breakfast, meeting center, dining-in-the-fields outpost, and a profitable micro greens enterprise.

Also worth the trip is Schnebly Winery and Brewery, the southernmost winery in the US. Their recently built winery and event center has become a crown jewel in the Homestead area. With the ingenious idea to combine traditional wine with tropical fruits, their table wines, sparkling, and dessert wines really make for an unparalleled experience. The Cat 2 Hurricane Red, a sangria style beverage and the Mango Dolce are both amazing treats. Their Boo-Boo wine is especially delicious, featuring starfruit and lychee in a stunning combination. The grounds are incredible and make use of the natural coral rock, which was once prevalent across South Florida but has become rare everywhere but Homestead.

So near and yet so far, an Agritourism excursion is a great addition to a South Florida vacation. It will transport you to an old forest state of mind.

Pumped-up for pumpkins

EcoGo- Half Moon Bay (CA) Pumpkin Fest - 1,696 Pound Winner

We love pumpkin celebrations, especially our home-town Art & Pumpkin Festival in Half Moon Bay, CA. Founded some 45 years ago, this event has displayed outstanding gourds  — and has helped Half Moon Bay become an agritourism destination.

Heaviest gourd

Steve Daletas, from Pleasant Hill, Oregon, entered the 2015 heaviest gourd at 1,969 pounds!  The world record 2,323 pounder belongs to Swiss Beni Meier, who displayed the gourd last year in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Festivals around the world not only award the gargantuans but also celebrate harvest and bounty.

EcoGo - Half Moon Bay (CA) Pumpkin Fest - Farmer and Sculptor Mike

Carving Picasso

At the Half Moon Festival, pumpkins are feted by weight, sculptural beauty, parades, participation and treats. We like the carvings as much as weight-winners. Farmer Mike, known as the “Picasso of Pumpkin Carvers,” has featured his artwork since the mid-1980s.

EcoGo - Half Moon Bay (CA) Pumpkin Fest - Grand Parade Marshall and Former Giants Pitcher Dave Dravecky

Grand Marshall Davecky

The world-famous Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival Parade is led annually by a local San Francisco Bay Area star. This year, Dave Dravecky, the former Giants left-handed, Wille Mac award winner and Major League Baseball all-star pitcher, served as honorary Grand Marshal — marching along with marching bands, classic cars, floats, and a crazy mix of costumed ghouls, goblins, gargoyles, and ghosts.

Tasty treats

It’s all about the pumpkin in Half Moon Bay, where tasty treats like pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin sticky buns, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin fudge, pumpkin fudge, pumpkin pie soda delight the taste buds. And of course, who could forget some of the richest, creamiest, pumpkin pie anyone could hope for? Some 25,000 slices of the tasty treat of the seasonal dessert served – plenty for everyone!

Children come for the special attractions, fun and games, and the awesome zip-line and super thrilling bungee jump, while adults can enjoy Half Moon Bay Brewing Company’s Pumpkin Harvest Ale – brewed with a variety of pale and crystal malts and pumpkin pulp, Half Moon Bay Winery’s festival-label Red Blend, plus out-of-this-world artisanal cocktails; pumpkin-flavored Jack-o-tinis and Bloody Mary’s from Half Moon Bay Distillery.

Pumpkins are king in Half Moon Bay each year in October.

Organic farming, better wines

EcoGo - Masayara Winery - McMinnville, Oregon

EcoGo certainly applauds the organic, sustainable practices used in growing grapes and making wines. Yet there’s ongoing debate about getting organically certified or going further for Demeter certification. Either way, the vineyards should flourish — and it comes down to what growers and vintners believe works best for their grapes.

What are Demeter biodynamics?

Demeter biodynamic practices began in the 1920s, based on the writings of Austrian Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) who believed farms should operate as self-contained organisms which provide and nurture themselves. Local farmers tested these principles years ago, and best practices have been used by organic farmers.

The U.S. Demeter Biodynamics certification starts with farm standards including “necessary elements of the farm organism, soil fertility management, crop protection, greenhouse management, animal welfare, and the use of the preparations.” Of note, ten percent of acreage must be set-aside as a biodiversity preserve.

The most questioned steps relate to nine prescribed soil preparations. Key ingredients include fermented cow manure, powdered quartz and dried equisetum (horse tail) respectively.  Another six preparations are made from specific herbs, with some sheathed inside animal organs.

Beyond farming, Demeter Biodynamics (DB) also certifies farm products and processes. Simply put, DB certified wines should be made with 100% DB certified grapes and meet specific standards. Similarly, the USDA says 100% organic grapes must be used to label wines as organic.

EcoGo - Sheep as Vineyard Crew - Jack Rabbit Hill Farm

Do biodynamic wines taste better?

We don’t know if biodynamic wines taste better than other organic wines.

However biodynamic wines do beat conventional wines, handily. Back in 2004, Fortune Magazine (part 1, part 2) blind-tested ten pairs and nine biodynamic offerings were judged superior. Doug Frost, a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier, declared: “The biodynamic movement seems like latent ’60s acid-trip-inspired lunacy–until you taste the wines.”

“Making ‘Horn Manure,’ for example, involves burying a cow’s horn full of manure at the autumn equinox and digging it up in the spring,” declares Pierre Jancou, in More Than Organic, “But the evidence suggests that biodynamic farming has real benefits for life of the soil.”

University of Calfornia farm agent Glenn McGourty helped conduct a study comparing biodynamic and standard organic viticulture. “Grapes farmed biodynamically had slightly higher Brix (sugar content) and phenolic content,” he noted. “However, no differences were found in soil quality and microbial efficiency, plant nutrients, yield, cluster count and weight, and berry weight, and disease pressure was minor.”

EcoGo - Foreman Joaquin Corona - Benzinger Family Winery

Who’s going biodynamic now?

Today, Fork and Bottle has assembled a list of 529 natural and biodynamic wine producers worldwide. Nearly 100 producers are based in the United States, in various states of implementation. Demeter’s Jim Fullner said that nine U.S. wineries and 26 vineyards are biodynamic, representing 40-50 unique vineyards.

There are certified vineyards in Europe, the United States and beyond. You may travel to wine countries and pick places to visit based on this list alone. Since EcoGo is based in Sonoma wine country, we’ll suggest Benzinger Family Winery (Glen Ellen, CA) and Quivera Vineyard (Healdsburg, CA) for great tours and tastings.

Higher end, biodynamic vineyards almost seem self-selecting to us. If these grape growers and wine makers strive for the best possible wines, perhaps their overall care, organic approach and attention to detail make a difference too. They may be attracted to certifications which support sustainable viticulture and vintages.

Encouraging more organic practices within and surrounding vineyards is a good thing. Given the stresses of droughts and climate impact taking place in the U.S., Europe and around the globe, creating rich soils and ecosystems seems important for sustained harvests — and the future of great wines.

Chef Julius shares soulful, savory cuisine

EcoGo - Chef Julius Russell

All about local sources

“When I got started, molecular gastronomy was the big thing. It seemed a bit contrived,” explained Chef Julius Russell. “I discovered small markets and local farmers who supply the great chefs and enjoy a collaborative relationship, to the benefit of diners.”

Onions further illustrate his farm-to-table outlook. Chef Julius first encountered locally-grown tropea onions in France, and declared them a revelation because he felt “regular onions were too bold and took over the flavors of the dish.”

Honoring NOLA cuisine

Julius, a Chicago-based chef and culinary ambassador to Chile, focuses on New Orleans cuisine. He gives kudos to his mother, who taught him to cook so he wouldn’t grow up to be a male chauvinist and would be able to enjoy the kitchen. His wife of 12 years has only cooked a handful of times!

More importantly, the chef is inventive with cuisine and has re-worked classic dishes to make them lighter and more nutritious. We proudly share his recipe (see below) for Not Shrimp and Grits, where the shrimp may even be replaced with tofu for vegetarians.

Haute soul food in Napa

This weekend, the 2015 UPTOWN Uncorked Food & Wine Festival is taking place at the Silverado Resort in Napa, CA. Four top-notch soul food chefs and two winemakers are participating in a grand celebration of food, wine and sustainable sources.

It’s quite a line-up. The featured chefs are Julius RussellJudson Todd Allen,  Michele Wilson and Roble Ali. Winemakers include Brooklyn-based Andre Hueston Mack, of Mouton Noir wines; and the McBride Sisters, who offer New Zealand and California vintages.

Not Shrimp and Grits

Can’t go to Napa for the weekend?  You may re-create the experience through this great shrimp (or tofu) recipe provided by Chef Julius.

  • Main ingredients:  1 lb shell-on shrimp 21/25 (deveined) – 3 TB Chef Julius’ Creole Rub – 1 TB Worcestershire Sauce – ¼ cup Gran Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Wine – 2 garlic cloves smashed – ¼ cup Natalie’s Organic Orange Juice – 2 oz Epicurean Butter Roasted Garlic Butter – 1 Tb Deleyda Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Not Grits ingredients:  1 cup quinoa – 2 cups chicken demi glace/ chicken stock – 3 TB Apricot preserves – 1 TB tomato paste
  • Directions, Part 1:  In a plastic bowl add the shrimp and Natalie’s Orange Juice. Let marinate for 15 minutes. In a large sauté pan on medium heat, add the Olive Oil and butter. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Next remove the shrimp from the marinade and add to the pan. Sprinkle half of the Creole Rub and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine, Worcestershire sauce to the shrimp. Simmer until the shrimp is fully cooked (about 10 minutes).
  • Directions, Part 2:  Bring chicken demi to a boil. Add tomato paste and apricot preserves. Allow the mixture to boil together and use a whisk to mix together. Add the quinoa, lower heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest 5-10 minutes and fluff with a fork. Place quinoa in the bowl first, top with the shrimp and spoon the sauce over the top. Garnish with herbs.

Soil Sisters united in farm bounty

EcoGo - The Soil Sisters - Wisconsin Farmer Celebration

The Soil Sisters represent a movement, of sorts. Women owning 20 Wisconsin farms and food operations have risen together and organized a grand celebration overflowing with classes, fresh and artisan food, farm visits and family activities. EcoGo applauds their initiative and agritourism draw.

Soil Sisters: A Celebration of Wisconsin Family Farms and Rural Life

By Lisa Kivirist and John D. Ivanko

Agritourism, culinary travel and ecotourism converge with Soil Sisters, a community-wide event held in South Central Wisconsin, July 31 through August 2, 2015. Soil Sisters offers numerous, hands-on and on-farm workshops, farm tours and culinary events, all led by women farmers. From heirloom tomatoes to emus, sheep to solar energy, bed & breakfasts to beef, the farmers and artisan food producers share a unique diversity of farm experiences showcasing the summer’s bounty.

Women-owned farms

The event capitalizes on the growing interest in savoring farm-to-table meals, experiencing farm life, and supporting organizations that are preserving and restoring what travelers have come to enjoy. The three-day event is unique in both its approach and collaborative nature since more then twenty women-owned farms and food operations are involved. The event is made possible by the Wisconsin Farmers Union Foundation (WFU), the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) and Renewing the Countryside, with major funding support coming from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.

As it turns out, women farmers are among the fastest growing segment of farmers in the United States. The number of women-owned farms tripled over the past three decades, from 5 percent in 1978 to 14 percent in 2012, bucking the national trend of declining family farms. Added to this is the growth of farm stays nationally. Three of the twenty participating Soil Sisters farms operate, in part, by providing farm stay experiences for their bed & breakfast guests. Inn Serendipity’s Farm and B&B is even completely powered by the wind and sun. The Soil Sisters’ farms are committed, in various ways, to sustainable agriculture.

Harvest festivities

“This will be a celebration of the summer harvest from our amazing group of Soil Sisters farmers here in our Wisconsin community,” says Lori Stern, owner of Cow & Quince, hosting the Taste of Place on August 1st. “Come meet our local farming community and connect with the faces behind your food at Taste of Place.” There is also a Dinner on the Farm, August 1st, that is family friendly, with a meal prepared by the Underground Food Collective served “picnic style” at the Inn Serendipity Farm; guests will be entertained by the band, Moo-grass.

Besides getting a “backstage” pass to the inner-workings of these women owned farms, visitors can milk a goat, build a bouquet or preserve the harvest, depending on what workshops attendees sign up for. While the August 2nd Tour of Farms is free, the workshops and culinary events on July 31st and August 1st are ticketed.

Travelers can join in one event or spend the entire weekend learning new skills or expanding their knowledge of farming and food production, renewable energy and green building design, or launching a cottage food business from their kitchen or opening up a farm stay. They can learn how to raise emus, chickens, goats, ducks, sheep and numerous other livestock. On the farm, ripe produce, frozen meats, fresh-cut flowers, handmade crafts and numerous books will be available, boosting the local economy and supporting these family farmers who prioritize soil health.

Honoring our soils

The event celebrates the importance of soil, the living foundation upon which all terrestrial life thrives. It’s highlighted by the fact that the 68th United Nations General Assembly declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils.

“There are more soil microorganisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on the earth,” according to the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service. “Millions of species and billions of organisms—bacteria, algae, microscopic insects, earthworms, beetles, ants, mites, fungi and more—represent the greatest concentration of biomass anywhere on the planet!”

Soil Sisters celebrates the role family farms play in America’s food supply, shares the summertime abundance and draws attention to the growing number of women farmers who are committed to improving the soil on which they farm for generations to come.

Lisa Kivirist and John D. Ivanko operate the Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B and are co-authors of numerous books on sustainability, including Homemade for Sale, Farmstead Chef, ECOpreneuring and Rural Renaissance.

Champagne gets formally feted

EcoGo - Renovated Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers - Dom Perignon

Champagne given World Heritage status

Let’s pop the corks! UNESCO World Heritage status has been bestowed on the champagne vineyards, houses and cellars of France. Champagne was first created in the early 17th century, relatively modern times compared with wine-making traditions. Yet both are intertwined in France, east of Paris.

Some of the area’s cellars date back before the 12th century, and grapevines were introduced by the Romans as far back as 530 A.D. Around the 12th century, a sparkling wine trend began because local grapes naturally lent themselves to sparkling chardonnays, pinot noirs and pinot meuniers.

The famous story is that Dom Perignon, a monk living at Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers, accidentally invented champagne. It’s an event heralded in The Night They Invented Champagne (video), from the old Broadway musical Gigi! Exclamations aside, we aren’t sure when the first bubbly emerged.

EcoGo - Grape Harvest in Champagne-Ardenne France

The French tradition lives

It is exciting for champagne to gain World Heritage status, which recognizes processes as well as places. The 14 honored locations (map) include a happy confluence of grape-filled slopes, cellars and champagne houses from centuries ago. Although champagne production has grown to meet large global demand, its rich heritage continues through houses still in business:

  • Veuve Clicquot — a working champagne house entrenched in Napoleonic war history.
  • Ruinart — an old maison connected to King Louis XV and his love of champagne.
  • Champagne Morize — a small family winery which owns and uses 12th century cellars.

EcoGo - Champagne Cellar (Cave) in Aÿ, France

Bubbly at home and abroad

Champagne figures strongly into our Western culture, with bubbly flowing during the good times. Think about the Belle Époque, a golden age of arts and prosperity before the first World War. Picture champagne gulped from flappers’ shoes in the 1920s, when times were flush. Or recall TV bandleader Lawrence Welk, surrounded by bubbles to set the mood.

Today our glasses are raised to toast newlyweds, honorees and the New Year. Major public celebrations, especially sporting events, feature huge sprays. Our U.S. winemakers still wonder why they can’t call sparkling wine champagne: “Isn’t progress part of tradition?” Not always, not for this one word.

We think it’s time to appreciate champagne in its ancestral home. Make plans to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site, imagine old royalty and monks, and experience living history with the locals. What a great agricultural and champagne-tasting tour!

Urban permaculture in Hong Kong?

EcoGo - Hong Kong Permaculture Video - YouTube

In the hills above Hong Kong, an incredibly dense city filled with high rise buildings and indoor living, there’s a permaculture project underway. We’re impressed by what can be accomplished with a few clear goals, namely growing food, ensuring water sources and planning for the future.

The story of Farmer Steve

Aid worker Steve Cran learned that Hong Kong only supplied two percent of its food and decided to make a difference. He now oversees his Valhalla-like project, complete with gardens and a gathering place. Its bounty already includes many Chinese vegetables and work continues on the ambitious landscape. Only one person stays overnight, as Hong Kong laws prohibit permanent buildings there.

Urban permaculture looks like a throw-back to rural times. Take ten minutes to view Cran’s video tour, filmed by Granola Shotgun and distributed by Fair Companies. You will admire the steady effort, and likely believe that sustainable growing environments are possible anywhere. We’re putting this Hong Kong farm on our agritourism wish-list.

Turning towards local food

While Farmer Steve maximizes a sliver of land, he’s also thinking creatively about scaled solutions. He envisions growing food on entire floors of buildings, in proportion to the population. Regardless of the approach, places like Hong Kong should be able to supply residents in a more meaningful way.

Around the globe, city dwellers are able to consume some local food. “Locally grown” signs appear in major city supermarkets, stores, hotels and restaurants. Urban farming and community gardens do work on a micro-scale. And farmers markets offer reliable, organic food sources. Yet it’s unclear when financial or other incentives will trigger mainstream adoption.

Visit Sonoma farms, not just vineyards

EcoGo - Burbank Experimental Farm - 1907 - 3-23-15

When you hear “Sonoma,” images of California vineyards and vintages come to mind. Sure, the Valley of the Moon attracts worldwide visitors who appreciate the bounty from 400+ wineries. Yet these agritourists may be surprised by unique farm-filled itineraries once there.

Ode to Luther Burbank tour

Horticulturist Luther Burbank (1849-1926), known for his eponymous potato, created hundreds of plums and prunes, apples, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cacti, cherries, figs, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plumcots, quinces, almond, chesnuts, walnuts, figs, grapes, veggies and ornamentals during his long career.

He enjoyed working and living in Sonoma County, declaring: “I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned.” Burbank lived in Santa Rosa and ran a farm in Sebastopol. You may still visit his homestead and experimental farm today.

While on the subject of varieties, make time to visit The Petaluma Seed Bank. You will discover a special store stocked with non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented varieties. It’s owned by Rare Seeds (catalog), which offers 1,700 heirlooms collected from 75 countries.

Sonoma County farm tours

Beyond growing and selling their bounty, regional farmers offer tours, hands-on experiences, classes and other public events. These activities, in turn, help families keep their small farms operational and profitable. We suggest these tours:

  • California Cheese Trail — Check out a full calendar of events (here) taking place at 28 farms, creameries and cheese factories. Visit goats, sheep and cows. Meet cheesemongers and take classes to make cheese. Appreciate tastings of award-winning fromages.
  • Tara Firma Farm — Every weekend, this Petaluma farm opens its doors to the public (here). See happy cows and play with cute piglets and baby chicks. Learn where food comes from. And understand sustainable practices connecting animals, plants and soils.
  • Farm Visits, By Appointment — Explore all kinds of organic and sustainable farms in a Mediterranean climate. Using this full local guide (site or pdf), select farms and set up your appointments. Buy directly from the farmers!
  • Annual Farm Festivals — Visit many county farms during two open-house weekends. Want to see just about everything, all at once? Check the dates for Blossoms, Bees & Barnyard Babies (May) or Weekend Along the Farm Trails (Sept).

Farm to Table International Symposium

Louisiana Farming

The Farm to Table International Symposium (F2Ti) which has just concluded in New Orleans, Louisiana, is an annual event featuring the brightest thought leaders and leading practitioners in the burgeoning farm-to-table movement. F2Ti explores the cultivation, distribution, and consumption of food and drink sourced locally. Topics include the best practices for urban farming, bringing products to market, sourcing locally, and the latest with the imposing Food Safety Modernization Act. The conference concluded with an address by USDA undersecretary Edward Avalos discussing the importance of world tourism and the impact of the 2014 Farm Bill and how it will impact small farmers, local and regional food systems and organic agriculture.

This year’s theme, “The Process,” examined the agricultural-culinary cycle at all levels and featured its own organic fertility research project. Topics covered best practices for urban farming, bringing products to market and sourcing locally. Some of the presentations included:

  • Preventing Food Waste from Field to Fork
  • Food and Cultural Identity
  • Crop to Cup
  • Starting a Farm-to-Glass Distillery
  • Get the Lead Out: Heavy Metals & Urban Farming

Belcampo2For the first time this years symposium included a panel on Agritourism and Experiential F2T: Bringing Farmers, Chefs & Guests Together. Gabriele Marewski, the founder of Paradise Farms Organic discussed the dining series where Miami Florida’s best chefs produce “Dinners in Paradise” allowing diners to sample micro greens and tropical fruits while providing substantial income for the farm.

Poppy Tooker famed New Orleans author focused on the fascinating evolution of the Gulf States’ agritourism now featuring a “Hot Tamale Trail” and “Shrimp and Petroleum Festival”.

Pamela Lanier convened the session and discussed new opportunities developed in Europe for agritourism tours such as the Coloratour.com, Rural Dubrovnik and Peljesac Peninsula seafood gathering and organic vinery tour. Australian Italian guide Hugh Rowe has developed single and multi day tours delving into the centuries old agriculture and colonial traditions of Rome’s romantic nearby Castelli Romani region in conjunction with www.inItalytours.com.

The closing key note by the Honorable Edward Avalos himself farm-raised in the Mesilla Valley New Mexico enthusiastically discussed provisions in the Farm Act specifically geared to promote environmentally positive agriculture and get more young people – both hereditary farmers and new entrants – into a positive market position. Programs such as Farmers Market promotion, Specialty Crops grants, and the Organic Cost Share program illustrate that the United States USDA is “all in” in supporting local and new agricultural and ranch producers.

The symposium, produced in partnership with the SoFAB Institute and the LSU AgCenter, brings together the leading practitioners in the growing farm-to-table movement to explore the cultivation, distribution, and consumption of food and drink sourced locally while presenting the opportunity to connect consumers and chefs and producers. Chef Michel Nischan, CEO, Wholesome Wave, was this year’s Chairman of the symposium which took place at the New Orleans Earnest N. Morial Convention Center.

WWOOF: Sustainable Travel Meets Food

EcoGo - Wwoofer with sheep - 2-13-15Today’s current food system is a complex international network that provides ease and convenience, but at a cost. The growing disconnect between food producers, their product and consumers has caused health issues, environmental problems, human injustices and a lack of knowledge and closeness with the environment from which we live off. Organic farming, sustainable agriculture and the farm-to-table movement are growing in popularity as attention to the environment increases and healthy, organic, seasonal and sustainable food becomes more accessible. Not only have restaurants began to embrace these ideas, and farmer’s markets become more popular, but organizations like WWOOF have given people the opportunity to re-educate their communities and become reconnected and directly involved with the production of our food.

WWOOF –What is it?

WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, but is now more commonly known as World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOF is a network of international organizations that links volunteers willing to learn and live on organic properties with host farms seeking help to make a more sustainable world. Volunteers give their time and labor in exchange for education, food and housing, all while traveling the world cheaply and reconnecting with nature. The organization began in the United Kingdom in 1971 by Sue Coppard, a secretary in London seeking an escape from her urban duties. When created, under the name “Working Weekends on Organic Farms”, the goal was to provide city dwellers the opportunity to get involved in the organic farming movement, eventually growing into a worldwide institution with over 50 countries around the world involved. Although there is an international website, WWOOF programs operate independently within each country, giving volunteers the opportunity to focus on specific regions.

How it works?

To become a WWOOF member, depending on the country/region chosen, you can sign-up online and receive complete access to the full host directory. Each host creates a profile describing their lifestyle, location, expectations, and accommodations. Members can also create a profile describing themselves and their experience and wishes, allowing for hosts and volunteers to interact and communicate directly. Once a member has chosen their destination and host, specifications on accommodations, projects, work hours and length of stay can be discussed. Generally no money is involved as this is voluntary based, although some hosts may offer a stipend for your time and effort. Many farms vary on what they focus on, ranging from purely produce or cattle, to wineries or beekeeping, giving volunteers a wide range of options to become involved in growing sustainable food. Volunteer and host relationships are not of employee/employer but equally work together. WWOOFing is compatible with people from all walks of life, including families, groups, young, old, all are welcome. The key to a successful WWOOF job is a continuous and open communication between host and volunteer as well as an open mind and positive attitude. For more tips on how-to WWOOF: http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/12-07/the-how-tos-of-wwoofing.html

Why WWOOF?

It gives people the rare opportunity to receive a new and valuable education while literally in the field, including

  • A cheap and rewarding way to travel all over the world
  • Get to meet all kinds of people from different cultures and backgrounds
  • Potentially even earn some extra money (depending on the farm)
  • Have a brand new experience outside of your comfort zone
  • Improve health through diet and exercise (and maybe get a tan!)
  • Learn or brush up on a new language
  • Explore and reconnect with nature
  • Work on environmental advocacy outside of the city for less
  • Maybe even get the chance to learn a new skill unrelated to farming
  • Slow down your life and relax
  • If time or location permit, work while you WWOOF
  • Can open new doors and opportunities to get involved or work within the industry

To learn more about WWOOFing:

http://www.wwoof.org/

http://www.wwoofinternational.org/

http://www.naturalnews.com/024818_organic_food_learning.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/apr/23/wwoof-world-wide-opportunities-on-organic-farms

http://beersandbeans.com/2011/03/02/the-essential-wwoofing-pack-list/