University of Vermont

Organic Farming Internship in California

Mackenzie Hart

WWOOFing stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farming. The basic idea behind the program is that WWOOFers work on a farm in exchange for a place to stay and sometimes meals. In doing so, the WWOOFers learn sustainable ways of living while the farmer receives cheap labor. Each experience is completely different based on what country you WWOOF in, the people you work with, the season you work, and the type of farm you are working on.

I found a program using the WWOOF website. The website has published lists of organic farms and after sifting through lists, I contacted a farm I was interested in. Then I went through an interviewing process, booked a flight, and soon enough I was on my way to Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark, California.

I spent five weeks of my summer WWOOFing. The farm was in the process of becoming certified organic and had been active for only the past year. It produced mostly lemons and avocados, but had a garden and some farm animals. My job was to do farm chores such as feed the chickens, clip their wings, clean the coops, tend the sheep, help move the cattle, measure compost, muck stalls, weed the garden and pastures, and do some microscope work. The work was very messy and wasn’t easy! But I couldn’t have asked for nicer living conditions and I was even lucky enough to receive meals.

For me, the purpose of WWOOFing was to immerse myself in biodynamic living, where everything works together. I learned about the ecological design of the farm and how difficult it can be to transform a nonorganic into certified organic. The challenging organic practices I faced have made me more aware of the amount of energy that’s necessary to become certified organic. As a result, the reward for all my hard work was spectacular, fresh and organic kale, broccoli, squash, lettuce, carrots, beets, chicken and more. The taste was unlike anything store bought and the affect the food had on my body seemed to reenergize me almost immediately. Although the food was amazing, eventually I missed the idea of feeling clean and not smelling like cow manure. After five weeks I returned home with a new appreciation for farming organically.