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A Stonyfield Farms advertisement caught my eye recently: “This Year, Know Your Food.” Hmm, I thought, I want to know my food. I went to their site to check out the “food adventure” sweepstakes. The winner would receive a fridge makeover and a visit to Stonyfield Farms. I decided not to enter the contest because, coincidentally, I am planning a year of really getting to know my food.
As most people have, in New Years past, I made resolutions. Some I’ve stuck with, others have faded with the passing of the months and finally been forgotten. Late in 2011, I happened upon a book which suggested a different idea: Establishing a “theme” for a desired transition in life doesn’t have to be set at the New Year, but for me it was perfect timing. My theme for 2012 and beyond is “Getting My Hands Dirty.” Having finished college, completed my dietetic internship, passed the arduous registered dietitian exam, and landed a public health job, I saw no clear next steps in front of me. I began to feel stagnant.
But, because I realized the world was wide open, I began to think critically and carefully about my next steps and unlock the possibilities for the future. I felt I needed some real world experience before reentering the realm of academia. It felt wrong to begin the master’s of sustainable food systems program I’d been accepted to without ever having worked on a farm.
To amend this gap in my education, this year I plan to participate in wwoof (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) to get my hands dirty, literally, and to actually experience the philosophies I am so passionate about. I am hoping to wwoof at homesteads, more so than larger farms, to learn about sustainable living and providing for oneself. Most of the farm hosts I’ve contacted are small homesteads that primarily live off the land and sell some produce at nearby markets. Some are off the grid, described as “insanely committed camping.” All those I’ve contacted so far have been rural, but it would be great to experience an urban homestead as well. After all, it seems to me that since most folks live in cities, urban homesteading is a huge part of creating sustainability in our world. One of the farms I might wwoof at is in Bath, NY. If I do make it there, I might just have to get an experience in urban homesteading in NYC. That would be the ultimate urban farming experience!
I’m trying to leave my plan open-ended enough to allow for spontaneous opportunities to come at me (like NYC); however, I do want to have enough contacts when I set out that I won’t be wasting time on the trip trying to find farms that have space for me. Two notes I’ve written to myself in my wwoofing planning folder are “Don’t squeeze too much in!” and “Don’t be afraid to waver from the plan!” Yes, since I am usually an over-planner, I need to write these things in as reminders.
What do you think the importance of hands-on experience is? Have you ever been a farming intern? Is it important to you to know your food?