As I write this post, I’m halfway through my two-week stay at a homestead organic farm in Southern Maine. I help out with work in the mornings, then have my afternoons free to spend as I please—from exploring downtown Portland to learning how to carve wooden spoons. This work exchange is part of the WWOOF network, a directory of organic farms and interested individuals who trade room and board for an agreed-upon amount of daily labor. WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) offers cheap support to small farmers, and gives volunteers a chance to travel, live frugally, and learn trade skills.
The homestead I chose to work at is small, just a few acres of land surrounding a cozy home that the owners built themselves. They have a whip-smart young daughter who is always full of energy, as well as a host of pets. I’m staying in a yurt, heating it myself with the wood-fire stove. There’s no running water and I have to fill my makeshift tap from a spigot on the side of the house. This is a huge change from anywhere else I’ve ever lived—the dependability of well-developed suburbia and hectic urban living are all I know.
Living here, I’m making the lightest environmental footprint than at any other time in my adult life. Here’s what I’ve learned so far into my stay, in the form of tips I’m taking to heart myself:
- Use less water for everyday tasks. Carrying the amount of water I use into the yurt and dumping it out when my drain bucked is full has shown me just how much water it takes to perform simple tasks like washing dishes, brushing my teeth, and washing my face. Going forward, I want to be more mindful about how I’m using the tap.
- Practice handiwork. I’ve loved learning how to carve wood—watching something take shape piece by piece is so satisfying. When I get back home, I’m going to break out my knitting needles again. Having a craft to practice is a great way for me to get my phone out of my hands and keep me engaged in the world around me.
- Eat more simple meals. There are so many delicious and nourishing meals that you can make with staple ingredients and one or two fresh pieces of produce. This fall and winter, expect me to be eating bowl after bowl of lentils and rice.
- Buy local food! Small organic farmers are working HARD, guys. They’re not into farming because they’re trying to make a lot of money—they’re into farming because they care about plants, biodiversity, and the environment. I want to put more of my money into products form local farms, rather than into the latest easy processed meal from Whole Foods.
- Take breaks from screen time. I’ve been sleeping so well since I’ve been here, and I think a large part of that is the fact that I’m only staring at a screen for an hour or two each day. My go-to activity for downtime is getting on my laptop to watch videos, read articles, or browse aimlessly. Moving my body or engaging with an activity instead during the day has helped me fall asleep so much easier.
All of these things are pretty basic tips that I myself have heard elsewhere before. Living this reality of waking up surrounded by trees, harvesting potatoes and mulching over land, gathering acorns and chestnuts makes me understand it to my bones. WWOOFing is a great experience that I believe every privileged person should try in order to get closer to our food sources and the environment.