WWOOF stand for, World Wide Opportunities for Organic Farming. It's a volunteer based organization that allows for journey's and introductions into organic farming. They link potential volunteers, aka WWOOFers, with registered organic farms all over the world. Instead of doing a "traditional" internship this summer, I decided to pursue a month's time on an organic farm in Northern California called, First Generation Farmers. Here's five amazing things I learned from WWOOFING. 

1. Plants grow differently than I imagined. 

I firmly believe that as a society we have become very estranged and distant from how we get our food. It sounds like a cliche, but I decided to go organic farming because I wanted to know where our food comes from, and more importantly to know the people who grow what we eat. The first time I went to the fields, I was introduced to an adorable plot of land where rows and rows of different organic vegetables were growing. A contrast to the monoculture I'm used to seeing on farms. What I realized as I was taken to harvest, was that plants grow much differently than I had imagined. It was a display of how disconnected I was from how I got my food. Kale grows on stems like little trees, and salad looks like cute little shrubs on the ground. Who would have known. 

2. Bugs, So Many Bugs.   

Now I have to admit, since we were a veggie farm the amount of bugs on our plot was much less than I braced myself for. But as an individual with a deathly fear of bugs, any amount gives me minor heart palpations. It was kind of cute though, on many of our veggies we would turn the leaf over and see a swarm of aphids and ladybugs, which would subsequently make me scream internally and look for another leaf to pluck. So, there you go, organic at it's finest. 

3. Washing Produce is a Pain and Honor

Because we were a small, local organic farm, our main source of income was at our farm stand and the farmers markets we frequented around the Bay Area. Which meant we did all the scrubbing ourselves. After every harvest, we would go and wash down the veggies, which was a long and repetitive process. It was a type of double check to make sure the produce we were putting out was a good batch. And was also a way to make sure there were no hidden bugs. It wasn't arduous in an overt way, but rather the hours of bending down and scrubbing definitely took a toll on the body. Farming, even temporarily, really teaches you a deep respect for those who harvest and produce the food we eat. This lifestyle isn't easy, it's labor intensive and long. But it is beautiful. Only after a month on the farm, my hands began to tell the tale of my time there. Calloused, wrinkled, and tanned, in these descriptions I learned not only respect, but also appreciation for my food. Which meant I met my goal of learning appreciating the land. Who knew all this could come from just washing vegetables. P.S. This is really me. 

4. I Could Endure Heat

Our farm had two aspects, the one that WWOOFers were invited to help out with was the vegetable acre, the other aspect was our vineyard. Because of the nature of producing good wine, you want to find a place that has extremity in temperature, the stark difference between hot days and cool nights is perfect for producing an excellent wine. Due to this fact, what we faced in the thick of summer was, well extreme heat. The days could reach up to 100+ degrees, not lovely. And as a farm that strove to be near zero waste and that cuts down on environmental impact, our living quarters didn't provide AC, but fans instead. We had to rise early to go to the fields in order to avoid most of the heat wave. I think I shredded pounds there from merely sweating. But if you were to ask me today, despite all the heat and sweat, I wouldn't hesitate to go back one bit. 

5. Eggs, Coops, and Chickens

This farm had an array of aspects, it was a vineyard, an organic vegetable farm, and it had it's own livestock. From goats (who were incredibly adorable and the highlight) to ducks and chickens, as a WWOOFer we were expected to help out on the farm when we weren't out in the fields or at farmers markets. During that time period I was alloted the chores of collecting eggs and cleaning the chicken coup. Now let me tell you, for such a small bird, they sure can sh*t. Feeding them was a flapping and squawking nightmare. The coup had to be cleaned subsequently from all the food consumed. This I definitely do not miss, it was smell, it was yucky, and hot, but it had to be done. After all that's farm life. But I also learned to appreciate where my eggs come from. You have to collect eggs daily, if the chicken nests too long on them, they can crack, and even break. And of course, in order to have eggs, you had to have chickens (No, I'm not answering the chicken and egg question here).

So, that's the crux of some things I learned to do. A lot of it boiled down to one word, respect. As I imagined in the beginning, and what I happily concluded, was that farming  taught me so much, not only about myself, but also the world around me. I've come to cherish food so much more, and now have a profound love for supporting local farmers, and buying organic when my wallet allows (I know, I'm one of those now). But it really does make a difference. Although this was my first WWOOFing experience, I know it's not my last. Plus, this is a world wide organization, maybe I'll go WWOOF in Ireland next. 

For anyone who is considering doing this alternate lifestyle, I highly recommend and encourage you to do so. It's life changing and wondrous. 

Did I mention there were goats on the farm?