I did not intend to intern/WWOOF this summer. Ending up at Taproot Farm these past three weeks was a product of a dear friend’s gentle nudge, my love of the outdoors, acquaintance with this beautiful farm, and not being able to afford a traditional summer vacation. When I applied I had recently finished a serious round of interviews for a global health fellowship which would take me back to East Africa to work for a year. I was so excited about this opportunity that I led myself to believe that I was ‘IN”. Flash-forward: I didn’t make the cut. Womp womp. Oh well! Over the past 3 years I, like many 20-somethings right now, have been dabbling in my different interests through various jobs and volunteering. So, when my friend forwarded me the application, I thought- hey that could be great! I’ve had friends WWOOF in faraway places and come back to tell of WONDERFUL or terrifying experiences. Why not spend some time Wwoofing at Taproot Farm in May?
Looking back now though, I think I ended up here through a somewhat unconscious desire to transition out of my day-to-day in Baltimore. Beth and Tim joke that many of the folks who have helped on this farm are in a time of transition. I am so glad that my path led me here. I think this organic farming bug has stuck for awhile! Who knows? Stay tuned friends!
So, why Taproot Farm?
Having visited the farm for a Wednesday night Meditation Circle last January with friends, I had a small idea what the farm was all about. Taproot is a small, family-run, organic farm like many others, but there is also the community learning, practicing mindfulness, and the vision of Beth and Tim that makes this place unique. Beginning to incorporate Permaculture planning and practices into their farming is one of the biggest ways I see how Taproot is different from other small farms (Go Josh!). Elli said it best when she told me, “At Taproot they see WWOOFing as a learning experience, so they are going to teach you a lot.” That was right on the money!
Since being here I have learned to plant a lot of veggies (holy tomatoes and basil!), harvest for the biweekly CSA pickups, build an awesome compost pile, make compost tea, make pepper spray to deter pests, build a hugelkultur bed, gather eggs, care for chickens, rams, ewes, and lambs, inspect bee hives, process honey, make and can strawberry jam, take a weed walk to identify medicinal and edible plants on the farm, cook with all the delicious ingredients available, and loads of other fun things. Sarah and I joked that our last week of WWOOFing was ‘field trip week’ because we were able to visit two other small organic farms run by friends of Taproot. Seeing some of the practices and visions of these other farms helps all of us learn and reinforces the most important thing I’ve learned while interning: it is doable to grow and raise our own healthy food at home and a lot of the time it is fun. I’m already thinking about where I can grow tomatoes in Baltimore during the last month of my lease (my car?), and how I can spend more time near pigs, goats, and horses. Thanks a lot Taproot Farm team! -Kai
It's partly just the circles I live in, but I have rarely ever encountered anyone surprised that I want to WWOOF. But the sticking point is always where I want to WWOOF. "That's awesome! Where? I've always wanted to do it in Ireland!" (Hawaii is another popular one). And then they're a little taken aback when I answer: Maine, West Virginia, and Minnesota. West Virginia is the particularly hard one. I have been living in Boston for 5+ years and when I am done traveling will be moving to Vermont. My friends and acquaintances in New England do not really understand West Virginia or why I would want to get to know it.
I am very much a New Englander at heart (and was born in Boston), but I grew up in Maryland in the DC suburbs (and I can seem very Maryland to my born-and-raised New England friends-- I do not count candlepin bowling as real bowling, I'm pretty sure everything is better with Old Bay, and I am absolutely sure that crab is better than lobster). Since I have known I wanted to WWOOF, I have known I wanted to WWOOF in West Virginia.
If my WWOOFing is about understanding local/regional food, I believe I should check it out in the region I did most of my growing in- the Potomac River Watershed. And if it's about understanding how to change my lifestyle to one that's more healthy, sustainable, and fulfilling, I don't want to go to Hawaii to learn that. I will never live in Hawaii and I am not even really a beach person. This region is "home" enough to me that I got excited when I crossed the Line coming here. And it turns out West Virginia's climate and species are surprisingly similar to that in Vermont and Massachusetts. It turns out I really love West Virginia and could see myself living here, for a while at least. Pushing your boundaries is important, but I think you can sometimes learn more from just barely stepping outside your comfort zone than from jumping as far away as possible.
Taproot turned out to be exactly what I wanted. I learned a lot about farming, but especially farming as part of a whole lifestyle, one that's practical for me. (In Omnivore's Dilemma when Michael Pollan visits Polyface farm, nobody drinks coffee. That is definitely not the case here at Taproot.) The farming here is tangled up in art, spirituality, and a whole lot of being really goofy. -Sarah