WWOOFers and Farming
As part of my resiliencey plan, I started gardening on a large scale – part time at the beginning of 2012. My farming partner and I are in our early 50's and we both have full time jobs apart from the farm. In our first year, we sold our extra produce at a local farmer's market and enrolled 11 CSA Members. FYI, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Most of our members are half members who pay an annual fee of $75 and then pay $20 per week for a pretty big bag of clean, chemical-free food (we are not certified organic so are barred from using that word).
But, we had trouble meeting our members' grocery share because it's only us two old ladies out working the farm and only part time.
Enter the WWOOFer! Many transient people, young people, and others offer their farm labor for a place to live (usually outside), meals/food, a little transportation, and a small stipend. My daughter found us such a WWOOFer and boy is he paying off! We were lucky because we got a responsible person the very first time. He is out working at 8 am each morning and works five hours on the farm, 5 days a week; he also does some chores (his terms which I accepted). We provide food, transportation, and a weekly stipend of $20 per week, which has room to grow as we expand with his help.
There are many homeless people out there who are craving for a sense of community and family and who are willing to work for the basic securities of a place to sleep, food, and minimal personal needs. Of course, do a background check, check ID, and if possible get references. Our WWOOFer has worked on several different farms, so we did have references.
So, for those of you who need help developing a farming project, you may want to check out "hiring" a WWOOFer or two. If you get the right one, it's a win-win situation.
As far as progress goes, we now have 2 olive trees, 4 fig trees, 2 loquat trees, 4 arctic kiwi vines, and 16 blueberry bushes. We are farming annual vegetables and fruits (melons, ground cherries) in about 1/2-1 acre. This year, because we had such a great harvest of black-eyed peas last year (planted (2) 90 foot rows and got back about 10 pounds of peas), we will plant at least 2 acres of dried beans over the summer. Beans and hard peas have no problems during the hot, Florida summers, and very few other things grow (peppers, eggplant). Dried beans are also a great addition to our CSA grocery bag and can be stored for months or years. If you think home grown tomatos taste great, try some home grown black eyed peas!
And finally, we had great fun harvesting the peas. Friends, family and neighbors all stopped by with pot luck preps and we sat around the table and talked and laughed and shelled peas by hand, and yes, even the kids helped out.
Note: If you're reading this and are not yet a member of Peak Prosperity's Agriculture & Permaculture Group, please consider joining it now. It's where our active community of gardening enthusiasts share information, insights and knowledgable daily discussion to help you succeed in growing your own food. Simply go here and click the "Join Today" button.