Today marks one week since Benny and I packed our van, said our goodbyes to family and friends and left for our first internship with Simonton Farm, a native wetland tree nursery, farm and canine paradise. We arrived early evening last Sunday in time to meet the family, Sid and Susan and their children and take a short tour of the farm before having a big dinner. Simonton Farm is located in one of the smallest towns left in America, Huffington post in fact listed Micanopy on their top 20 smallest towns in the U.S. The downtown area with firehouse, courthouse, library, antique and farm stores doesn’t even stretch a full mile. Quite a difference from its neighboring town of Gainesville just 10 short miles north.
Sid has spent 30 years developing his property with native trees and has even built tiny homes and tree houses for WWOOFers and other guests as well as placing a small collection of 50’s trailers (all equipped with running water and electricity, a luxury you don’t always get when WWOOFing) throughout the property. Currently, I am writing this blog as I sit in my kitchen using communal WiFi, making this the perfect place for anyone like me. Making writing, taking online classes and uses social media to log our journey and learnings easy. On a typical day we wake up around 8am with the sounds roosters crowing and dogs beginning to stir and making their presence known. Many of the dogs here run the property freely and most are small dog breeds and they run in small packs, many named after hobbits from The Lord of the Rings or after star constellations. Breakfast is individual and so is lunch, but food is provided. Dinners are communal and a joint effort of cooking and cleaning, slightly chaotic for someone who grow up with a small family like myself, but the conversation and the sense of community and learning here is captivating. Talks of religion and politics are welcome and are very hearty and mind expanding. There are WWOOFers that are here from all over the globe (some have even come back and made this their home) and they have hosted every type of person there is, so you can see influences of that all over the farm, whether it be an art piece or an agriculture project. We work 6 hour days with breaks and time off when requested. The environment here is progressive but also relaxed. There is no back-breaking labor or monotonous work, which is something I think my family was worried about. Most people think of farm work and they think of monoculture farms where the workers are in the field for hours at a time breaking their back in the heat and hating life. Simonton Farm is quite the opposite. Work is rewarding and physical labor here and there is no more than what an average person spends on cleaning their home or washing their car.
Projects we have helped with this week include, moving cuttings out of the greenhouse, planting corn, covering old crops, repairing fencing, animal upkeep via cleaning, feeding and doting on, egg collection, harvesting snap peas, watering greenhouse, spreading goat manure, digging a small trench, repairing irrigation, cutting tree limbs, replacing a porch beam, transplanting sugar cane, clearing land for a garden extension, unloading the box truck, going on supply run, feeding the pigs as well as cooking and cleaning. Not bad for a week’s work with time left over for exploration and relaxation. Some of the projects we look forward to include, milking the goats and learning to make goat cheese, mashing apples and learning to make spiked apple cider, learning how to do tree and plant cuttings for a future nursery of our own, learning how to set up and ebb and flow garden like the one Sid has designed, learning how to get involved with plant vending, networking, tiny house building, seed harvesting in the wild and general farm management.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this place so far is the warmth of Susan and Sid and the incredible diversity of plant life, of people and of one on one conversation. I can feel a lot of personal growth in the short week that we have stayed here. The only thing I am disappointed in is not yet finding the time and the peace of mind to dive into any of my art. I just unloaded my boxes of supplies from the van yesterday, but we have yet to fully unpack or organize. Dinner is often late and after dinner and cleaning I’m pooped from the day and usually asleep by 9 or 10. I will work on finding a balance for my juggling act of school, art, WWOOFing, blogging, yoga and local exploration and photography. I may have to cut my communal dinners into half perhaps participating in 3 or 4 a week and giving me 3 or 4 nights a week to sew, edit, meditate, Skype with family and study and do homework. And there’s also that pesky business plan I’ve been working on, but I’ve 8 months to whittle away at that.
In conclusion, I would recommend WWOOFing for either pleasure or business. It is both rewarding and mind expanding. It’s financially frugal and makes you really appreciate food and the whole food process. It also is a great break from the structures and limitations that society puts on us with the hustle and bustle of shallow existences. I haven’t shaved my legs in a week, painted my nails or binge on crappy television. It feels like a cleansing of the soul and I like it.