How to learn about food on an organic farm
- 7:36am -
Happy steam waltzes off my morning coffee. I'm not absently thumbing through my morning social media alerts, or being slapped awake by the first set of flights from Sydney airport. It's a good start to the day.
I attempt to identify different birds within the morning chorus. Black Cockatoo, Magpie, Kookaburra... There is noise here, but it's good noise.
I'm at Windellama Organics, a certified organic fruit, egg and vegetable farm, about 3 hours South of Sydney. I'm here to get an edible education.
I'll be helping care for 250 happy hens, harvesting vegetables and raspberries, getting sunburnt and, at one point, viciously beaked, while rescuing a frazzled Rosella from a bit of netting.
Being hands-on at the farm offered me a new perspective within the first hour. I could immediately see the back-breaking human effort that goes into planting, growing, harvesting, cleaning and selling organic produce. I now understand the little 'certified organic' labels that I actively look for in the shops. I was honestly shocked by the amount of hours of gentle hand-harvesting it took to fill just a few 125g punnets (Sold for just $9) of raspberries. A process of slowly sifting through very spiky vines that left my arms resembling a case eczema. Then there's the accounts of constant shin-kicking dealt to the farmers, Lyn and Russell. Like when just one unseasonable cloudburst stops you harvesting ripe berries from wet bushes and rodents munch an entire seasons worth of beans overnight. Then there's eagles, foxes, snakes and occasional toadstool poisonings that haunt the 250ish free-ranging hens. Each one them with a known personality, and usually a nickname. It hurts like losing a pet every time. Sadly, I was there to witness one of the girls who didn't make it through her night in "ICU", a private luxury respite pen for crook chooks. RIP 'Little Red Hen 2'.
It never ends and it is never easy and we don't see the hard work that goes in when we buy a few groceries at the shops.
There are organic farms all over Australia who truly need, deserve and appreciate, your elbow-grease. They gratefully accept it in exchange for food, board and a game-changing education about where your food comes from.
Welcome to WWOOFing -
Willing Workers On Organic Farms is a program that runs globally, including in Australia. It links organic farmers with people like you who want to learn, live and laugh like them for a week or three. In exchange for 4-6 hours work per day you will be fed and housed in some of the most serene settings you could wish for on AirBNB. Did I mention free food is part of the deal? And, it's going to be the freshest food you have probably ever had. WWOOFing is a brilliant, healthy and affordable holiday idea.
It will straight up change your life, if only at the supermarket.
You can contact Windellama Organics, where I wrote/filmed this article, to enquire about WWOOFing schedules and vacancies via their Facebook page.
Get involved and feel free to ask any questions in the comments.