It is a new year and we have developed a new plan to help us advance our knowledge in sustainable food production.
Over the past year, we have been working on clearing and managing land, writing a business proposal, taking educational courses in permaculture and getting familiar with terms and techniques through reading and collaborating with others. A couple months ago we decided that we would like to learn by interning hands on throughout the country with a organization called WWOOF. Which stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It was established in the 70’s in Europe and has just began to really take off in North America. When I explain this plan to people I get a lot of “whys”. Why would we work for free? What’s the point etc.
Well, for us it’s mainly about the education. This is what we want to do with our life, grow food, restore disturbed lands, study environmental science and work with others passionate about the same. So on this trip, we are planning to learn from successful farms as much as we can over an 8 month period. We aim to learn about start up farming, networking, farmers markets, aquaponics, crop sharing, animal agriculture, becoming a WWOOF host, product development and other farming and homesteading skills. (Just to name a few.) It is one thing to digest a bunch of reading material and a total other putting that knowledge to use. Most farms require 4/5 hours of work a day (25 hours a week) and give 2 days off. They also provide food during work days, meaning you only have to budget your own money for food on the weekends. This is a more than fair exchange for labor you receive knowledge, room and board and personal growth through teamwork and stewardship.
We will be starting our first farm in the Gainesville area, a small city named Micanopy staying a month. This farm is large enough to host 10 WWOOFers at a time, they have built tiny homes which is where we will lodge during our stay. At this farm we will be doing a lot of native tree planting and nursery management. We will also learn to filter water with a rice paddy system and help them with their breeding program for working dogs.
After that we are headed west to Mobile Alabama for a month to a start up farm, with them we will be helping them lay the groundwork for a farm to be. We will be building raised beds, helping establish irrigation as well as help clear their land of any invasive species. We will be lodging in home with them and volunteering for neighbor (further along) farms in the area.
From Alabama we will be headed to Texas (not before spending a few days in New Orleans of course for some reward/fun time and food) We will be in the Austin area volunteering for a Llama refuge, we will only be working with this farm for just over a week and during our stay with, All about Llamas it will be spent at a folk music festival (talk about luck!) where we will be engaging with people and helping them get to know these wonderful creatures. Benny may even get in on some of the jams.
We then have 4 free days which we will spend driving across the desert from Texas to the San Diego area. During these days we will make stops to hike, camp and explore. We have not picked any specific destinations for this yet, but we will most likely take this time to explore Phoenix before moving on to southern California. Once we get to San Diego, we will be doing the month of June there, working at an established permaculture farm. There we will be staying in an RV, but we will be off the grid living. On the weekends we will be meeting up with fellow friends that live in that area.
Once we leave southern California we will spend a few days in San Francisco for some play time/camping (we have a free week) and then we will continue north to Oregon and we will be working with animals here. We will learn to make cheese, how to harvest honey and how to shave sheep. Here we will be lodging in a Tiny house and we will stay from mid July into August.
After Orego, we will be making our way to Washington State and we will be staying with true homesteaders. We will learn food preservation, canning, fermenting, wine production, garlic pressing, cider pressing, hemp cultivation, and more. I am most excited about this farm and can not wait to learn from our hosts. Our lodging here will be in the loft of a barn.
I booked a second farm in Washington state, just because it’s a cannabis farm and I would like to have both the novelty and the know how of working with this fascinating crop. I am interested to see what will happen with the politics of this plant over the next several years. How often does one get the chance to stay on a marijuana farm? The second bonus of this farm is that it is also a vineyard/winery. Benny and I share an interest in possibly learning how to make blueberry wine, since blueberries grow so easily and abundantly here in Florida.
For our route back, I have yet to book any farms. It’s a pretty daunting task, writing each host, discussing skills and compatibility as well as schedules. The plan is to book something in Colorado then maybe Arkansas or Kansas, down to Alabama or Georgia and then home. So after interning from a mix of diverse farms and hosts I think we will come back from this full of knowledge and have the skills to make this a reality for our life.
The timing is great because Brooklyn is starting college two years early and Cadence now lives with her father in Englewood, in the future I won’t be able to travel like this because we will go back to our 50/50 custody order with my youngest. Thankfully with Skype and facetime, this time away won’t really be that much of a disconnect.