Friendly Farmhands from Philadelphia

| 6/13/2011 8:58:20 AM

Tags: volunteering, gardening, chickens, Cam Mather,

Over the last few years as our “To Do” list has grown and our personal energy levels have decreased, Michelle and I have considered finding “WWOOFers” to come and work on our farm. “WWOOF” stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” and it’s a way for people looking to work and learn on organic farms to connect with farmers looking for willing workers. Essentially the willing workers trade their labor for room and board and the chance to learn how to farm organically. We’ve never done it before but this year I thought it might be time. (Find out more here;


We decided to gear up our food production this summer so that we’ll have some extra to sell at the Farmer’s Market in Tamworth. I always have a whack of projects that I have in mind for the summer months that I don’t get done because I’m too busy in the garden. By the time everything is planted, and I spend my time weeding and watering and harvesting, the season is over. So I thought some extra hands might help me get some of these projects done.

There’s a fee to join the WWOOFers program, so Michelle found an alternative venue called “HelpX.” ( Michelle posted a description of what we were looking for and what we had to offer here at Sunflower Farm. Shortly after she posted it we were contacted by Mike and Melissa, a couple from Philadelphia who said they’d be interested. Wow! Philadelphia! Home of the Flyers and Eagles and the Liberty Bell!

 They sounded keen to learn about living sustainably so we arranged for them to come and spend a week here. They arrived on June 4th and will soon be heading off on new adventures. As I said to Michelle, and to Mike and Melissa after they’d been here for a day or two, this is one of the weirdest thing’s I’ve ever done, and as a home-schooling, off-grid living, bike riding, tofu-eating, self-employed non-traditionalist, that’s saying something. You invite people that you don’t know anything about to come and stay at your place for a week, and hope you’ll be able to get some work out of them. And you hope that they’re not psycho killers. They, of course, probably have the same concerns.

 As it turns out, the fit couldn’t have been better. It was our first time hosting HelpXers and it was their first time as volunteers so we all had the same apprehensions. Mike is back at school focusing on renewable energy engineering so he is really interested in the whole “off grid” concept. Melissa works for a book publisher! Really. How great is that! We just sit around and share war stories from the publishing world. We have learned a lot from her, like how one of the hot trends right now is “narrative non-fiction!” The book that Michelle and I have written called “Little House Off The Grid” (to be published this fall) would be considered narrative non-fiction, so it’s guaranteed to be a huge best seller! We use the same software and have all the same issues in our business so it’s been pretty great talking to Melissa.

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