“Roosters at Singing Cedars in Orwell, Vt wake the farmstead at 5:45 a.m,” wrote Brad Efford, a recent UMW graduate, on his blog on June 19.
Efford, along with Lena Moses-Schmitt, who also graduated last spring, spent a month working on an organic farm over the summer.
Their blog chronicling the trip http://wwoofvt.umwblogs.org/ made it onto the Featured Blog role on umwblogs.org.
The couple knew they wanted to take a trip after graduation, but after deciding that a cross-country road trip was too expensive, they signed up for an account with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF.)
WWOOF is an organization that pairs volunteers, like Efford and Moses-Schmitt, with organic farms all over the world. The farmers provide food and a place to stay for the “WWOOFers” and they provide labor for a previously agreed upon amount of time.
Moses-Schmitt planned on “WWOOFing” for two years before graduating, after hearing about the experience of a friend who had done it in Italy.
“It’s an interesting way to go somewhere and not be a tourist,” she said.
Neither Efford or Moses-Schmitt had any farming or gardening experience prior to their time at Singing Cedars.
Efford said he wasn’t nervous about it until about an hour before their arrival at the farm.
“We were on the train about two stops away and we both just got really nervous,” he said. “We just realized, ‘Oh my god we have no idea what this guy is going to be like.’”
Their host farm turned out to be “fine” according to Efford, and Moses-Schmitt described everyone at the farm as “really, really nice.”
The accommodations at the farm were rustic. They stayed in an old barn that had been converted into an apartment with no TV, internet or bathroom. They used an outhouse, and had use of the shower in the farmer’s main house about once a week.
But neither of them minded.
“I actually am really glad we didn’t have TV or internet or any of the distraction,” Moses-Schmitt said. “We got to spend time wandering around the farm.”
Food, according to Efford, was made up of jars of grains and beans, vegetables from the farm, and lots and lots of eggs from Singing Cedar’s many chickens.
“We probably had about five to six eggs each a day,” Efford said. “But a lot of what we ate came from the farm, we’d harvest carrots throughout the day or pull up a head of lettuce for a salad.”
It took the two of them a while to adjust to the early mornings and hard work on the farm. Efford said they woke up at 6:30 a.m. every day to feed the lambs, and then met the rest of the workers to begin the day by 7:30 a.m.
“The second day was the worst. We were planting five or six rows of strawberries. It started to rain and we were really behind. [The other workers] were mad at us,” Efford said. “[But] after about two weeks we were broken in.”
“I really liked being tired at the end of the day and having my muscles sore,” Moses-Schmitt said.
Efford and Moses-Schmidt chose to spend some money on weekend trips to Burlington and Middlebury and sampling local Vermont beers.
“But if we had wanted to we could have made the trip without really spending any money,” Moses-Schmitt said.
This makes it great option for students or recent graduates who want to travel on a small budget, according to Efford.
“It was a really good experience,” he said. “Just be prepared to work hard.”
He said he would even recommend that WWOOFers stay longer than a month. They both said they weren’t ready to leave when June was over.
“We had just gotten to the point where we were no longer ‘the new people,’” he said.
They had to leave because Efford was offered his current position with AMERICORE in Missoula, Mont.
Moses-Schmitt, who is now back home in Arlington, Va. looking for job opportunities possibly with non-profit organizations, said she wants to WWOOF again.
“I definitely want to do it again,” she said. “I’d love to WWOOF in England or Ireland.”