Host Contact Taryn Field was on duty throughout the Members Weekend taking notes to make sure she could bring you the details of our celebratory event.
Whilst travelling up to Cumbria on one of the most scenic train rides I’d been on for a while, I was reflecting on everything that makes WWOOF one of the greatest concepts I’ve come across. This weekend was not just a normal members’ weekend and AGM, but also a celebration of 45 years of WWOOF UK! I arrived at the Kepplewray Centre, nestled in a wooded valley in Broughton-in-Furness in Cumbria, or Lancashire depending on who you speak to, and was welcomed by the smell of wood smoke from the open fire which instantly added to my good mood. Luckily I was just in time for dinner; Kepplewray had put on a spread of plentiful, wholesome food, and we were treated to an array of desserts too. After dinner we gathered in one of the lounges and, with the sound of a fire crackling in the background, we began the introductory circle to welcome everyone who’d arrived.
As there was no formal agenda for Friday evening we used this time for a general open forum, where members could discuss anything they wanted. WWOOF posed several questions: ‘Why choose WWOOF UK over other organisations such as HelpX and Workaway?’ Members responded by explaining that they would rather support the organic movement, others noticed a lack of support or human contact with the other organisations, whereas WWOOF UK offers plenty of support. ‘How will Brexit effect us?‘ Over fifty per cent of WWOOF UK’s WWOOFers are European, but no one really knows how it will pan out. ‘What improvements can WWOOF UK make?’ There were a few website improvement suggestions offered, which we gladly took note of. Then later on, guests began thinning out, no doubt on their way to bed after what presumably was a long day travelling. I was not far behind although I managed to get in a couple games of table tennis before hitting the sack myself.
Saturday morning began with, once again, a glorious spread for breakfast followed by our usual three hour Council meeting. Whilst directors and staff were in the ‘games room’ talking about all things WWOOFy, a separate discussion ‘The WWOOFer Experience’ was running in the lounge. This was a chance for hosts and WWOOFers to consider aspects of the WWOOF exchange that worked well, or didn’t work well and what they would change or improve about the organisation. Many post-it notes were used and displayed under the various topics of discussion. Then lunch was ready, and Kepplewray once again treated us to a delicious meal, the dining room filling up as more members arrived for the weekend.
The formal bit of the weekend, the official AGM, began with a lively round of the different groups of directors, staff, hosts, WWOOFers and guests all standing up to introduce themselves.
Two lovely PhD student WWOOFers from Newcastle University attended and, besides having WWOOFed in various countries, they were involved in Organic Food Quality research. You can read about their extensive research and findings here: https://goo.gl/BqVaMD.
WWOOF UK’s longest standing director, Richard Hazell, stepped down from his post after so many years supporting WWOOF and being invaluable to its success. Sue Coppard, WWOOF’s founder, sent an appreciation of Richard, which Scarlett (Penn, our Chief Executive) read out to the group, see page 3, and then presented it to him with a humorous, framed cartoon of himself, drawn by his talented fellow director Trudi Warner.
We wish Richard all the best for the future although we will still no doubt call upon his trusted wisdom as an adviser to WWOOF UK going forward. Thanking Richard for his hard work and service led nicely into hearing stories, memories and reflections from hosts and WWOOFers about their experiences.
We listened with interest about recipe sharing, teaching and learning from each other, love and friendships that can blossom between WWOOFers and hosts, and also WWOOFers and WWOOFers, and WWOOFers turning into hosts; so many magical moments that have been shared through the exchange, that might cause the eyes to well up. (I don’t think it was just me…)
What is a celebration without cake? And what a cake it was! As you can see, a lot of care and love went into making this birthday cake for us, and we thank the local bakers of Broughton-in-Furness for their artistry and skill, it tasted great too!
In the latter part of the afternoon there was an informative and inspiring presentation by Adam Cade and Nim Kibbler who have been heavily involved in creating LLOOF (Living and Learning on Organic Farms). This is a partnership involving national WWOOF organisations from ten different countries coming together to produce, develop and promote an open learning resource for adult learners about organic food production. Do read the article on page 8 explaining what the LLOOF project has been all about!
Once the presentation was over, we enjoyed a bit of free time before dinner and the day was nicely finished off with a WWOOF quiz; this pleased me greatly as I love quizzes!! We divided ourselves into teams of four, pen and paper in hands and Amanda (Pearson – our Volunteer Liaison), who had amazingly thought of all the questions (AND had mentioned all the answers smoothly and sporadically throughout the day to all) began the quiz. I was pretty confident my team would do well, however some of the questions were quite tricky but we managed to score a respectable seven out of ten. I think there was a tie at the end, but we’re all winners to me.
Sunday morning greeted us with warm sun and crisp air and a cooked breakfast! While we were enjoying filling our bellies, Holly (Cross – our Personnel and Organisational Administrator) informed us of the logistics for our excursion to Laya Point, the nearest WWOOF host to Kepplewray. I was very pleased we were going there, as I love meeting new hosts and had not been in the area before.
The short drive there was beautiful. The scenery was breathtaking, and the weather being on point really accentuated the beauty of the area. Tom, who runs Laya Point with his partner Rosie, gave us an in-depth and informative tour around the site. Although Tom’s dogs were a bit of a distraction (as they were super friendly) we had a good walk around asking questions and chatting, sunshine warming our bodies.
Laya Point hosts all sorts of courses; yoga, basket making, meditation and, of course, permaculture, and much more. To see what else they are involved in, have a look at their website: www.layapoint.com.
We finished the tour and the morning off with a closing circle with members recalling their favourite moments, or what they enjoyed most about the weekend. Rosie cooked us all an impressive lunch; this was served in the main room which has the most gorgeous views, so it was a real treat.
Alas, the time came to leave; there were a good few of us that were on the same train so we headed off to the station, all beginning our journey home. I always feel like this after a WWOOF AGM, a little tired, but inspired and refreshed, and really glad I had the chance to be involved with what is the most amazing concept ever… WWOOF! Special thanks must go to Holly, who worked tirelessly organising this amazing event and to Chris Schmidt-Reid for the photos. Thank you!