This Fall, Become a Volunteer Farmer

Consider this new plan for the year ahead!

I put down the pen and pick up the pitchfork.

During the week, I’m a magazine editor. But sometimes, on the weekend, I’m a farmer.

WWOOF, which stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farming, is an international organization that connects volunteers with homesteads and farms for an outdoor education. How it works: Sign up to be a WWOOF member (there’s a $30 yearly fee) and view online profiles of farms in your area or across the country. It’s sort of like online dating, except instead of having dinner you’ll milk a cow (if you opt for a dairy farm, that is). Spend a weekend or even a few months helping out as a farmhand; in return you’ll get a place to stay and three meals a day.

I recommend going with a friend—it’s more fun to have someone to laugh with as you pull weeds and mulch orchards. Thus far, my friend Kiera and I have picked apples, made cider from scratch, harvested kale, checked in on chicken coops and mastered the art of pushing a wheelbarrow.

Working hours are usually from sunrise to sunset, but the education continues after you put down the shovel. We’ve learned how to play poker and make Indian curry dishes. Most recently, we visited Stonegate Farm in New York’s Hudson Valley and spent the weekend learning about soil, gardening and photography. We even made ravioli from the kale we had harvested that morning. It was a night I’ll never forget. Inspired by volunteers? You’ll love Jimmy Carter’s stories from Habitat from Humanity.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest