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Story: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a loose network of national organisations that aims to connect people and facilitate homestays via work on organic farms. This past June, I WWOOFed my way along the East Coast of Spain, grasping onto the feeling of freedom that came with living off the land.
The first farm I went to resided in a little corner of the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone National Park. Every morning – with a trusty labrador companion – my host and I would feed the animals and tend to the vegetable garden before spending hours forking hay into the shed for horse feed come winter.
The second farm I stayed at was surrounded by miles upon miles of centuries-old olive trees that thrived on hardly any rainfall. I spent most of my days here picking herbs and preparing them for sale at farmer’s markets.
During my time on these farms, I soon realised the fantasy I had played out in my head – happily soaking in Mediterranean sun while learning about different plant types and landscapes – was nothing like reality. It was better.
Under the sweltering heat, I was learning more than just about nature. I had the time and space to think about how people interact with the natural world and how people choose to organise themselves as a consequence. My body was covered with grime most days, my hands and legs itchy from walking around in grass and among hidden sandflies, hair unkempt, muscles fatigued, but I never felt freer.
Certainly, as with anywhere in the world you go, not everyone you meet will be as free-spirited or open-minded as you expect. Yet I was blessed by the kindness of my hosts who opened up their homes to me and taught me everything they knew; blessed by their friends who embraced me with the warmth of their stories; and blessed by everything in between that culminated in the peace of mind that I will carry with me back to the city.
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