Heather was WWOOFing in Cornwall when we noticed the social media she was putting out using the #wwoofuk hashtag and we liked it! So we got in touch and asked if she would write a little something about the experience.
‘WWOOFing’ is a word that can either make the person in front of you light up with recognition or frown in bemusement. Though the concepts of seasonal eating, veg boxes, and ‘eating organic’ were not alien to me, it was through WWOOFing at Bosavern Community Farm in St. Just, Cornwall, that I realised that eating local is more than about reducing your carbon footprint. It is about community living.
Food sovereignty can mean community spaces. Libraries are one of the few public spaces in the UK that one can visit where there is no obligation to spend money. WWOOFing showed me another space where this is also true- community farms and food projects. These spaces thrive and run due to the volunteers that walk through their doors. By giving the opportunity for people to be involved in their own food production, it gives a greater connection to the processes that decide what fruit and vegetables end up on their plate. As a WWOOFer you live onsite so we had the benefits of eating the leftover harvested vegetables, and it created a lot of experimentation in the kitchens for our communal lunches and dinners. Never before had I been quite so reliant on what was provided to me by the land- although we still had the luxury of going to the local supermarket chain for whatever our heart desired, my fellow WWOOFers and I made a concerted effort to cook our meals based on what we had harvested.
When I first arrived in Cornwall, which I’m told has a similar climate to that of Northern Spain, my first day was spent planting out young broad beans in long raised beds. I had arrived at the beginning of April so the harvests consisted of kale, chard, lettuce, mange tout, rocket, kohlrabi leaves, parsley, coriander, spring greens, and oriental greens. From another local farm they ordered in cauliflowers, and they also ordered organic potatoes. Thursdays were a day where volunteers, live-in WWOOFers and local volunteers alike, congregated into the packing shed to divide up the tasks of the day; who was harvesting and what, who was weighing and what, who was distributing to the veg boxes, etc. Every single day-volunteer was subscribed to the farm’s veg box scheme, so their physical labour was literally to put food on their plate. It was my favourite day of the week because the hustle made me feel like there was nothing more important than what we were doing at that very moment.
Organic and non-invasive farming techniques mean there is more opportunity for people to be safely involved in the farming process. There was no fear of harmful exposure to the cocktail of pesticides that has become normalised in mass agricultural practices, for the main precondition for a property to be on WWOOF is having ‘organic’ practices. It meant a team of people came together to weed a plant bed; that every Wednesday from June we dug up potatoes with our shovels for the next day; that the rocket was freshly cut by my scissors. This dedication to local food production not only promotes community, but relies on it. Without the labour of WWOOFers on farms or local volunteers at community gardens, the amount of work that is done would simply not be feasible.
WWOOFing allows people from all over the world to contribute and live in a space where ‘living off the land’ doesn’t seem like an intangible dream; whether the land feeds three people or 30.
After spending six months WWOOFing in the UK, it feels like just the beginning. I now hold a WWOOF Independents membership, and can’t wait to see where that takes me!
Heather Macdonald – 24 years.
We are so grateful to Heather for taking the time to write ‘A taste of food sovereignty’ for us and sending the accompanying photos. We hope you enjoyed the read. We’d like to wish Heather the very best of luck with her WWOOFing adventure and hope it continues to fufil her passion for learning with the purpose of being able to skill-share with other organisations and people in the future.