What better way to spend senior year spring break than scooping up donkey poo? That’s what all the cool kids are doing these days, right? Right.
My roommate, Sabrina, and I embarked on our first WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) adventure over spring break at Brightwood Vineyard and Farm, LLC in Virginia. Our initial thought was that going down south would mean warmer weather since we were escaping the arctic tundra of Boston (spoiler alert: we were mistaken).
Sabrina and I had absolutely NO idea what to expect. I gotta admit, I haven’t spent much time on farms besides that one time I visited a farm during a field trip and pet a cow in the 2nd grade. But when you have 7 long hours to think during the car ride there, it’s impossible not to come up with a million ways the week could go horribly wrong.
Just think about it — we emailed random people who own a farm somewhere in the middle of nowhere Virginia asking if two college-aged girls could come live with them for a week which, when you think about it, is super sketchy. What if our hosts are mean? What if the food isn’t good? What if I’m so utterly incompetent at all things farming that they ask me to leave? What if I get head-butted by an angry donkey??
But alas, we survived. Actually, scratch that, we thrived.
Our hosts, Susan and Dean, were incredibly hospitable and knowledgable about all things organic/fair trade/non-gmo/local. Their 100 acre farm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is complete with 3 donkeys, 1 (very pregnant) cow, sheep, chickens, ducks, goats (including baby goats that we bottle fed!), 2 guard dogs (Luke and Lea), 1 house dog (Kara), and 1 cat (Samuel) in addition to several greenhouses with loads of bok choy, kale, arugula, tatsoi, and mustard. Because they also operate as a small-scale winery, there are rows of elderberry and grape trees which we spent some time pruning.
Besides taking care of the animals, Sabrina and I spent our days seeding more kale, tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, and chard in the nursery greenhouse for the spring in addition to crushing up lemon balm herbs to stuff in tea bags, triple-washing greens to pack in CSA boxes, and cooking dinner together with the food from the farm.
One night, we even took on the task of making dinner ourselves — lentil vegetable soup and…get ready for it… HOMEMADE BREAD. Now I may be biased, but I’m pretty sure it was the best bread I’ve ever tasted.
Although I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a farmer, there was something so refreshingly and authentically human about being that close to the land. As Dean, our host father, said, “Farming stretches across time and space.” People have been farming since, well, forever. And people do it all over the world. Everyone needs to eat, and your food has to come from somewhere. But I like to think it’s about more than just food. It’s about nourishment, community, harmony, and slowing down for a bit in a world that’s so rapidly speeding up. To be part of such a timeless tradition, even for a short week, was pretty remarkable.