Local farming an option
By LANDON JAMES
When senior Kaitlin Mayhew goes home for the day, she doesn’t return to a dorm room or an apartment.
“I like being able to take a break from town,” said Mayhew. “Whether it’s Fredericksburg for school or D.C. for work, I spend a lot of time in cities. It’s nice to be able to come home to animals and trees and a simpler lifestyle.”
Mayhew is a full-time student and interns at a publication in D.C.
She also lives on San Ysidro Farms in Stafford, Va. with her boyfriend Michael Green, 30.
They raise everything from legumes to livestock on the 50-acre farm.
Mayhew and Green grow watermelons, carrots, bell peppers, okra and a variety of other herbs and vegetables. The farm also supports one bull, three cows, three horses, chickens and other household pets.
Named after Saint Isidor, the patron saint of farmers and laborers, Green selected the name after learning about the saint while working on farms in New Mexico.
San Ysidro Farms is also a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.
This means that many of the farm’s costs are covered by shares anyone can buy in exchange for different food grown on-site each week. Shares are $300 a year, which comes out to $15 a week, and harvest distribution is every Thursday.
In preparing for their 2011 growing season, Green and Mayhew already have 20 people signed up for shares, but their goal is to reach 50.
A reduced cost of $100 a year is available to anyone who’s not afraid to get their hands dirty and volunteer on the farm.
Mayhew and Green participate in the World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farmers (WWOOF), an organization that allows people to travel to organic farms throughout the country and volunteer in exchange for free meals and lodging.
San Ysidro Farms began accepting WWOOF volunteers in January 2009 and hosst eight to 10 different people throughout the year.
WWOOFers coming to San Ysidro Farms can stay in one of the two spare rooms in the house, but when it’s warm outside, many prefer camping in the beautiful woodlands and open skies surrounding the cow pasture.
Green worked on his first organic farm at age 19. He feels like he has been a part of WWOOF long before San Ysidro Farms.
“I think I was WWOOFing before I knew what WWOOFing was and whenever I got to a farm I wanted to have those opportunities,” said Green.
Green explained they encounter two types of WWOOFers.
The first type is simply using WWOOF as a way to travel the world and enjoy new organic lifestyles and opportunities, he said. The second includes those who are interested in learning more about farming to decide whether it is the right life choice for them.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to work with farms than get accepted on an organic farm and experience it firsthand,” said Green.
San Ysidro Farms offers a good opportunity for UMW students who are interested in organic farming or local, sustainable food to get some experience without having to travel, according to Mayhew.
“We’re only 10 minutes from downtown Fredericksburg and students can go home at the end of the day,” said Mayhew. “They don’t have to commit to anything.”
Students who work four to six hours in one week can go home with a week’s worth of vegetables.
Green admitted that running a farm can be a lot of responsibility, especially without proper help. However, there is nothing he would rather be doing.
“It’s addicting and I don’t think I could do anything else at this point,” explained Green.