What is WWOOFing? Is it the sound of a dog or wolf ? No, nothing so timid. WWOOFing is an acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, a mutually beneficial program that matches volunteers with an organic farming experience (often in exchange for room & board). Choose a country, pay a small fee, and watch your magic beans begin to grow.
As a 60 year-old, newly divorced women, I heard about WWOOFING and thought it sounded like a great way to travel aboard. WWOOFING became a type of pilgrimage for restoration. Helping others became a way to help heal. I traded my old way of thinking for some magic beans.
Testing the process at home was a good first step. Looking to escape the Florida summer heat, I chose Maine. Ten weeks, three farms, new experiences and friendships reinforced my ideas about living a successful organic life. The magic beans had sprouted…
With increased self-confidence, I ventured aboard to Italy to make jams and jellies. Wonder and discovery awaited in a small, old world Italian village of the Basilicata mountain region. History, legends, beauty and language surrounded me there.
Now a seasoned wwoofer, I focus on the next place I want to visit and the type of farming offered there. My goal is to explore as many different types of farms, cultures, and settings as possible. Do they make jams, bread, cider, or wine? Does the farm grow vegetables to take to market or care for animals?
Bread making and eating are high on my list, so I searched for a bakery in France. Bread is the stuff of life in France and made organically at the Boulangerie Les Co’Pains in Normandy. The recipe for life is as simplistic as making bread: flour, water and salt. They get 20 requests a month from wwoofers but only take one at a time. I felt very blessed to be here. It is a very special place where Jazz is often heard playing early in the morning as the loaves are being formed.
The wwoofers live above the bakery where the smell and heat from the oven rise to warm a tired body. The dough is made the night before and left to rise. At 4:30 AM, one of the bakers arrives to start the wood stove and make the breads. Baguettes, brioches, sables, and pain complet are just a few of the choices. Then it is off to market in Honfleur, Caen, and Lisieux to sell.
WWOOFing is partly not knowing where this pilgrimage will take me. Careful planning can still lead to missed flights and lost bags, but also to new tastes, sights, and experiences. WWOOFing has taught me to be kind to myself when I’m fatigued, sad, or lonely. Memories are made to savour and I can sleep when I am old, filled with the knowledge of a life well lived. For in this there is a sense of success and inner strength.
Now I’m off to another farm and the unknown. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.
Barbara Ery is freelance writer and visual artist based in the U.S. Follow her adventures on her blog: www.barbaraery.com