Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Game Plan

So now that I have decided to actually WWOOF, the next year and half or so are starting to loom in a rather alarming way. I've made the big decision (What do I do next?) and now I have to start making those annoying little logistical ones (So... how do I actually do this?).

Frankly, the task is a daunting one. Let's start at the beginning: first and foremost, I need to decide where the heck I'm going. There are 195 countries in the world, give or take one or two (do we count Taiwan? What about Vatican City?), and 99 of those host WWOOF-ers. But while I would love to backpack my way across international organic landscapes, learning how to say "permaculture" in seventeen different languages , there are two big reasons why I won't.

First: the money. I do not have much of it, and I would like to not spend all of what I have. Second: I am interested in learning about the issues surrounding the agricultural systems of this country, where I intend to live and work and play and eat for all my days. So it makes sense, financially and for my future career, to stay here in the US of A.

Not that this simplifies things, really. I go to the WWOOF USA website and what do I find but a giant map of the Fifty Nifty United States. Fifty. Five-Zero. That's a lot of states, people. And while I may pretend to be whimsical and happy-go-lucky in my day to day meanderings, there is no way I'm pulling a Doctor Doolittle and going wherever my finger blindly falls in the atlas.

Rather than approaching this from the outside, I think I need to take it the opposite direction, and examine my own needs. What are my reasons for WWOOF-ing? What do I hope to gain? If I identify the "why" for myself, I can use that to whittle away at the myriad farms and organizations out there, and find the ones that address what I'm specifically interested in.

So here are my thoughts, such as they are:

Variety is the spice of life. I don't just want to plant corn for a year (although I do love corn). I want to sample a broad swath of what's available the organic agriculture horizon, working in a multitude of different areas. This includes, but is not limited to:
  • Ranches (or anywhere with livestock, really)
  • Dairy farms
  • Orchards
  • "Traditional" farms with your average produce
  • Winery
  • Apiary (a.k.a. a bee farm)
  • Wherever I can tap trees and make maple syrup
Being skilled and savvy. Related to the above is another list, which grows longer daily, of skills I'd like to learn along the way. How to make cheese. How to can tomatoes. How to build a fence. Increase my upper arm strength by chopping wood. Learn the basics of gardening. Dry herbs. Milk cows. Collect eggs from chickens.

Increase my organic know-how. Well, that's the whole reason I'm doing this, after all. Ultimately, I want to get my Master's in Food Studies (more on that eventually). What better way to learn about the issues facing today's organic farmer and the industry of organic and sustainable agriculture than to actually go out and do it? By WWOOF-ing, I will meet people who are invested in this industry and this movement. I can talk to farmers and the future leaders of the organic initaitive, make connections, and learn first-hand what is out there and what needs to change.

Gotta sow those wild oats. I'm young and limber (ish). I can handle sleeping on the ground and spending a few weeks bent over a row of beets. Plus, I need stories to tell my grandkids.

So - new game plan:
  • Make list of the types of farms I want to visit and learn more about (started above)
  • Defile the snowy-white screen of my untouched farm spreadsheet with information about interesting-looking organic farms
  • Contact farmers and learn more - what kind of accomodations are available, what tasks will I do, are there cows around (I like cows), are there cats (I like cats too), etc.
  • Create a loose itinerary that takes into account all of the above

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