I haven’t blogged in awhile, because I’ve been WWOOFing at a farm in North Carolina. WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. As a WWOOFer, I am working and living on two organic farms in the Carolinas. My first farm is RedBud Farm in Burlington, North Carolina.
I couldn’t have asked for better hosts at the farm. They have set me up in an 1870’s cabin, all to myself. It’s beautiful, rustic, and quaint, including a hammock on the screened in porch.
The cropland is on 8 acres of the 130 acres the family owns. They grow organic vegetables, fruit, herbs, and some flowers. Having been here a week, I’ve had the opportunity to work with almost all the crops they grow. Through planting, transplanting, tending to, harvesting, packaging, and selling their produce, I have learned a great deal about organic farming practices.
Some of their tomatoes suffered from early blight this year, as they were not covered by the hoop houses (or high tunnels) quickly enough. This disease causes the plants to die from the bottom upward, slowly killing the plant. Tomatoes are infected with this disease, when the foliage of the plant get wet. Either during watering, or a natural rain shower, microbes in the soil can splash into the foliage of the plant. The microbes are what truly causes the disease. The solution for the tomatoes is to use drip irrigation as a watering system, and to cover the foliage of the plant so it stays dry. A hoop house will protect the foliage, or smaller individual plastic cover.
One of the hoop houses (home to peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant).
The main farmer has taken me under his wing, teaching me as much as he can within the two weeks I’ll be staying here. Reading through the organic certification process and forms, was one of the most interesting pieces of literature he’s given me. I’ve also read “The Soul of Soil”, “It’s a Long Road to a Tomato”, “Seed to Seed”, and many pest and disease control manuals.
One of the main reasons I chose to WWOOF, was to have a better understanding of how an organic food system might work. Also, to answer questions such as, “How does the farmer make money?”, “Is it possible to feed people using a sustainable system?”, and “What practices are used to organically fight pests and disease?”.
During my first week at the farm, I had most of the questions answered. To make money, the farm participates in two farmer’s markets, sells produce to two stores, and does once a week home delivery for customers. The local food movement down here is much bigger than I would have imagined. On almost a daily basis, I visit Company Shops Market. The market is only a few years old, and is thriving. The mission is to bring “Local food to local people”. They do business with local farms to bring fresh produce to the store. The farmers I’m staying with, take me to the shop quite frequently for lunch. The vibe inside the market is great. There’s a hot/cold food bar (with many plant-based choices), and space both inside and outside for dining. They compost at the market, and recycle almost everything else.