By Joel Davies
Last March, my partner and I left our careers and lives in London to embark on a year of working on diverse farms and agricultural projects between the UK and France. Having worked together as ‘Creatives’ in advertising, we’d become disillusioned and discontent with where our lives were leading us, and so we left. A story very similar to many WWOOF hosts and other WWOOFers we’ve now encountered during our travels.
We set off to explore how and where we could find a new living within the world of farming and growing – to learn amidst nature, moving and working with our hands rather than glued to a screen – searching for a more fulfilling way of living.
But having been a documentary photographer in my spare time, our decision suddenly meant I would be immersed in so many amazing, interesting environments with such rich stories to record.
La Forge de Beausoleil, a mixed farm in Périgord Vert (member of WWOOF France)
Documentary photographers and journalists often talk about the importance of access. How to gain trust and really see and understand what people are doing, who they are, and them being comfortable for you to have the camera out to document that. Through WWOOFing however, access has never been a question. I’ve always been warmly welcomed into hosts’ lives, quickly becoming a part of the life and running of a farm or project – photographing as a member of that community rather than an outsider.
Bosavern Community Farm, based near St. Just, Cornwall.
Equally, as a WWOOFer you come to these farms with fresh eyes and a different perspective; perhaps even able to see the beauty and importance of the work people are doing more than they themselves can now see.
And what a pleasure and privilege it is to see.
Le Rucher Creusois, an organic apiary in Creuse (member of WWOOF France)
At every farm and project we’ve stayed with, I’ve been in awe at the dedication, passion and perseverance land workers have had; growing and producing food in a way that is better than the mainstream, in a way that can restore biodiversity rather than destroy it. That can feed people and sustain life on our planet. But sadly, in a way that is still too undervalued, especially by our governments. Too often, the hard work I’ve seen reaps shockingly little financially.
And so I hope, even in a small way, that in recording and sharing what is being done out there on the land by those trying to better our food system, that more and more people can begin to appreciate the value of, and support, good food.
Nancealverne Market Garden, a peri-urban growing project in Penzance, Cornwall.
Thank you again to all of the amazing people that have hosted me and my partner. Your generosity has been heart-warming, and our experience over the past seven months has completely changed the course of our lives.
To any hosts, farms or projects who would be interested in having their work – their story – documented, please do get in touch.
Joel is a photographer sharing stories about traditional and regenerative land-working communities, and people’s relationships with their environment as the climate changes.
He is currently spending a year WWOOFing across a range of diverse farms and smallholdings – learning how farming communities are taking on the responsibility of feeding the world whilst also regenerating the land, and the actions people are taking to make agriculture and biodiversity more resilient to climate change.
Joel has a fantastic website documenting his journey: joeldavies.co.uk
Explore more on instagram: @joeldavies__
We are grateful to Joel for sharing his WWOOFing story with us and we’re certain it will be the inspiration for others to take their camera out into the fields.