WWOOF and HelpX: Seeing the World One Farm at a Time

The light filters through the branches of the plum tree, each leaf outlined in a brilliant yellow from the just risen sun. We are reaching up, stretching to pluck the abundant purple plums above us.

In about an hour, we’ll all join together for our first meal of the day; muesli, homemade yogurt, and fresh fruit salad, made with fruit we picked earlier in the week.

I’m on an organic stone fruit orchard in Australia, volunteering with five other travelers from around the world. After breakfast, we gather in a shed for our next job. We laugh and tell stories around a table as we carefully slice fruit for the solar drier. Once our four hours of volunteering are over, we convene with the farmers and share a big communal lunch.

Related Article: The Power of Hempseeds: Behold Powerful Nutrition

The rest of the day we have free to explorewe can borrow bikes, go for a walk around the neighboring orchards, relax and read books, or talk and play games with our new friends. At dinnertime we reconvene for a group meal, which we take turns each night cooking. Tonight, the Japanese travelers are trying their hand at a quiche, and I overhear them asking the older couple from Switzerland for advice about how to make the perfect crust.

DSC_1300Every day, I am learning new, practical skills for free. More importantly, though, I’m meeting like-minded travelers intent on learning from each other and giving back to the world. We are WWOOFers – Willing Workers on Organic Farms.

The minimum day requirement varies depending on the hosts. Most ask for at least one or two weeks, although its possible to arrange a shorter or longer stay. Some hosts will allow language learners or people interested in starting their own farm to stay for a long time, from 3 months to a year to forever! As a WWOOFer, though, if I really disliked or felt uncomfortable at a farm for any reason, I would be free to leave the next day.

Related Article: The Effect of Agriculture on the Planet

WWOOFing for the past two years in Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia has changed my whole outlook on life. Before, I assumed that my life would be linear; I would go to graduate school, get a job, buy a house, and raise a family, like most people I have known. After WWOOFing, I have experienced first-hand the many alternatives there are to that path.

WWOOF was the first organized program of its kind, created in 1971 by a London secretary named Sue Coppard. Her aim was to bring busy city folk back to nature with weekend trips to farms in the country. More than 40 years later, there are now thousands of places to WWDSC_3157OOF in 99 countries all over the world. In Australia alone, there were 2287 host farmers looking for volunteers in 2010.

Since its creation, WWOOFing has evolved to keep up with the growing demand from both travelers and farmers. Other voluntourism programs have also sprung up to embrace this new form of travel, such as HelpX. This websiteexpands far beyond organic farms to hundreds of other volunteer opportunities. Through the HelpX program, I’ve painted the outside of a bed and breakfast in New Zealand and taught English to kids in Bali. Volunteer projects are rarely boring.

Related Article: Volunteering is Good for Your Health

Case in point, one of my projects involved building teepees and adobe houses in Australia. Don and Sue live in a straw bale house they made with their own hands on their 10 acre property outside of a small town in South Australia. Even though they are Australian, the couple is fascinated with Native American spirituality and lifestyle.

Inspired by the Lakota tribe, they lovingly create custom-built teepees of all sizes. One overwhelmed mother wanted a private retreat to escape from her boisterous children, while another man wanted a space where he could safely barbecuDSC_0853e in the backyard of his high-fire risk neighborhood. Sue and Don also have teepees with beds and firepits set up on their property for “glamping,” or glamorous camping.

When I first accompanied Don to the forest, he knelt on the ground and thanked the trees for their contribution to his art. Then we sawed down trees and stacked them on top of his old Honda, taking them back to his property to strip off the bark, and sand smooth. A few days later, after he had measured and sewn the canvas cover, we drove to a customer’s house and set up the 25-foot-wide teepee in the moonlight. It was a magical experience.

On that same trip, I spent my mornings chopping down thistles, feeling like a warrior from Lord of the Rings. With other WWOOFers from Canada and Finland I built a spiral herb garden. We also spread a sandy clay on the walls of a new straw-bale structure they were building. Sue and Don don’t count hours, they just told us what projects they needed help with on their expansive property nestled in a eucalyptus forest, where platypus swim in the stream and kangaroos gather in the pasture at sunset. I stayed in a straw-bale cabin there for two weeks.

Related Article: Permaculture Connection

Not all voluntourism experiences have been as ideal, though. I remember working for a commercial organic vegetable farmer who needed 3-8 WWOOFers to weed for 5 hours a day just to keep his business running. I only stayed there for a few days because I was unhappy with the way he treated us. He had been hosting WWOOFers for more than 10 years and was disillusioned by the whole scheme, not bothering to learn anyone’s names.DSC_0810

Paul Kretchner’s biodynamic stone fruit orchard has a completely different take. Thanks to a roster updated daily, I knew exactly what my duties were to be, hour for hour, every day I was there. I found this comforting, since I knew that I was giving exactly what they expected.

Over the past 13 years, Paul has happily hosted 315 volunteers on his orchard.

WWOOFers add a diversity and interest to our lives, which we would otherwise not have,

he says. After traveling for 3 years in the USA, Canada, and South America, Paul also knows the importance of having a safe respite from travel for a week or more.

WWOOFing gives volunteers a place to stay for a while in a family setting, and to have some ‘home life‘. It’s an opportunity to experience this part of Australia, and to learn new skills working on a fruit property. For non-English speakers, it’s a great opportunity to improve their English.

Related Article: Edible Landscapes

There are no age limits or requirements to volunteering. Many farms, including Paul’s, accept families with small children, and enjoy having older WWOOFers.

The oldest volunteer we had was 70, from Switzerland, and he did a fantastic job,

said Paul. Likewise, the minimum stay varies from host to host. Most ask for at least one or two weeks, although its possible to arrange a shorter or longer stay. Some hosts will allow language learners

or people interested in starting their own farm to stay for a long time, from 3 months to a year to indefinitely. However, if WWOOFers felt uncomfortable a farm for any reason, they are free to leave the next day.

On the merits of voluntourism, James Nolting, a Californian who has volunteered on ten farms around Australia and New Zealand says:

Volunteering is the purest form of cultural exchange. There is no money changing hands, only the goodwill of travelers and hosts. I WWOOF because it’s a great way to get in touch with a new place. I get to meet the locals and dive into a different culture. It makes me feel more connected, less like a tourist and more like a member of the community.

Related Article: Biggest Wastes of Money (Part 5) Gadgets, Dining Out, Luxury Hotels, Gyms

DSC_0648

For me, WWOOFing has exposed me to new ways of life I never would have dreamed of. I am realizing that there are many other ways to live than those I have seen in my own country. These ongoing discoveries challenge me to redefine my life plan. Now, there are so many more options to choose from.

When I volunteer, my travel experience has a deeper meaning, transcending sightseeing and tourism. I feel fulfilled and powerful when I know that I’m helping someone.

Sources:

Whereisamber.com

Youngslug.blogspot.com

http://whereisamber.com/2013/02/22/taralee-orchard/

http://whereisamber.com/2013/02/26/gentle-earth-walking/

https://wondergressive.com/2012/11/14/skipping-breakfast-leads-to-unhealthy-food-consumption/

http://www.helpx.net/

http://www.wwoof.net/

http://wwoofinternational.org/history-of-wwoof/

www.wwoof.net/fileadmin/documents/Press_kit_stats.pdf

http://www.eslcafe.com/

https://wondergressive.com/2013/07/16/the-friends-of-the-indian-and-how-they-treated-their-friends/

http://www.amazon.com/Lord-Rings-J-R-R-Tolkien/dp/0544003411/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379583667&sr=1-3&keywords=lord+of+the+rings

http://youngslug.blogspot.com/2012/02/on-farm.html

 

The Wonderful, Healthier, Life Changing and Life Lengthening World of Fasting

Research from all around the world is coming up with various results that all point to the same thing; fasting is a safe and highly effective way to improve your health and overall well being. As an introduction to the art and lifestyle choice that is fasting, take a look at this documentary created by BBC Horizon. The video documents various types of fasting and also details the copious amounts of benefits involved, with scientific proof and documentation, in an easy to watch, entertaining format.

What is Fasting? 

Fasting is age old.  The first question people ask when I tell them I am fasting is “is there a religious reason?”  Various religions have historically incorporated some form of fasting, most notably for the spiritual and emotional benefits of the practice.

Although there are many types of fasting, fasting in general means abstaining from consuming food.  More specifically, abstinence from caloric ingestion.  The practitioner should stay hydrated by drinking water and/or tea, but that’s it.

The hardest part of fasting is the psychological hurdles.  You realize with full force that hunger in a civilized society is far more about the tongue than it is about actual nutrition.  I am currently on day 2 of a 5 day fast and have been without food for approximately 40 hours. I am not hungry in the slightest bit, but I can’t get food off my mind.  My stomach is quite content, but my thoughts betray me! This is where tea becomes especially handy.  It allows my taste buds to be satiated while refraining from ingesting any actual caloric substance.

Why Should I Fast?


Fasting is one of the healthiest and most beneficial things you can do for your body and your mind. Although a low calorie, nutrient rich diet seems to be the optimal way to eat, even with a very poor diet, fasting leads to dramatically positive changes in health. As a quick overview of some of the benefits of fasting, I, and medical professionals can safely say it will lead to:

  • Dramatic anti-aging effects
  • Weight loss
  • Increased amount of brain cells
  • Higher good cholesterol/lower bad cholesterol
  • Lower triglyceride levels
  • Stable blood pressure
  • General detoxification and drug detoxification
  • Clearer skin
  • Positive diet changes
  • Better resistance to disease
  • Reduction of allergies
  • Rest for digestive organs
  • Better sleep
  • Change of habits
  • Clearer planning
  • Better attitude
  • Creativity/ new ideas
  • Improved senses  (vision, hearing, taste)
  • Inspiration
  • More clarity (mentally and emotionally)
  • More energy
  • More relaxation
  • Purification, rejuvenation, and revitalization
  • Spiritual awareness

While filming the BBC documentary, Michael Mosley discovered that even eating unhealthily, by practicing intermittent fasting, his health improved markedly in a wide range of areas. Most notably, after a 4 day fast, his bad cholesterol was significantly lower, his unhealthy triglycerides were nearly halved, and most importantly, his levels of IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor) were more than halved.

Interestingly, fasting in mice, and potentially humans, also leads to an increased number of brain cells.  Researchers believe this is evolutionary, as, if you are without food, the number of synapses grow and neural networks expand to increase awareness and perception in order to more efficiently remember sources of food and to find new sources.

What is IGF-1, and Why Don’t I Want it? 

IGF-1 is a hormone produced in the body which is predominantly responsible for growth.  When you are young it is essential, but as we grow older it becomes one of our greatest enemies.  According to the BBC study, “The IGF-1 hormone (insulin-like growth factor) is one of the drivers which keep our bodies in go-go mode, with cells driven to reproduce. This is fine when you are growing, but not so good later in life.”

A great amount of research has gone into monitoring the effects of IGF-1 on the human body. Low levels of IGF-1 seem to correlate directly to an extended life span, less age related illnesses, and better overall health.  IGF-1 can be kept at low levels through a proper nutrient rich, low calorie diet.  It can also be dramatically lowered through fasting.

High levels of IGF-1 are directly related to obesity, cardiovascular disease, greater risk of age related illnesses, and higher rates of morbidity.

Fasting and Diet

Unfortunately, fasting once will not ensure long term health.  If you fast, and then go right back to the high calorie, low nutrition diet you ate before, you are guaranteed to have unhealthy levels of unwanted chemicals within a day or two.  They key is persistence and diet.

A nutrient rich diet filled with raw vegetables, leafy greens, fruits (especially berries), nuts, legumes, lentils, grains and oils high in poly and mono unsaturated fats like coconut oil will ensure long term, overall health. There are many tips and tricks to attain a truly nutrient dense diet.  An example of this is eating only the skin of an apple, since 95% of the nutrients are found in the skin. The rest is sugar.  This holds true for many fruits and vegetables.

Drop the sodas, diet or not, and start eating natural, life supporting foods.  Food can be the greatest medicine in the world.

Here’s a site with further information regarding nutrient dense foods to help get you started.

Here’s another site that will help you track your calories, and nutrients down to the single amino acid and/or phyto nutrient!

As a final note, I love fasting.  I usually fast 1-2 days each week, with a lengthier fast every couple of months or so.  I feel lighter, freer, happier and more aware.  My senses become heightened, and the world seems more at peace.  The health benefits are just a bonus!

The Life Changing and Life Lengthening World of Fasting

Research from all around the world is coming up with various results that all point to the same thing; fasting is a safe and highly effective way to improve your health and overall well being. In documentary created by BBC Horizon Michael Mosley gives an introduction to the art and lifestyle choice that is fasting.  The video documents various types of fasting and also details the copious amounts of benefits involved, with scientific proof and documentation, in an easy to watch, entertaining format.

*Update 3/3/13: The documentary has become so popular that Michael Mosley is writing a book. The link is now to an interview with him.

What is Fasting? 

Fasting is age old.  The first question people ask when I tell them I am fasting is “is there a religious reason?”  Various religions have historically incorporated some form of fasting, most notably for the spiritual and emotional benefits of the practice.

theyogadr.com

theyogadr.com

Although there are many types of fasting, fasting in general means abstaining from consuming food.  More specifically, abstinence from caloric ingestion.  The practitioner should stay hydrated by drinking water and/or tea, but that’s it.

The hardest part of fasting is the psychological hurdles.  You realize with full force that hunger in a civilized society is far more about the tongue than it is about actual nutrition.  I am currently on day 2 of a 5 day fast and have been without food for approximately 40 hours. I am not hungry in the slightest bit, but I can’t get food off my mind.  My stomach is quite content, but my thoughts betray me! This is where tea becomes especially handy.  It allows my taste buds to be satiated while refraining from ingesting any actual caloric substance.

Why Should I Fast?


Fasting is one of the healthiest and most beneficial things you can do for your body and your mind. Although a low calorie, nutrient rich diet seems to be the optimal way to eat, even with a very poor diet, fasting leads to dramatically positive changes in health. As a quick overview of some of the benefits of fasting, I, and medical professionals can safely say it will lead to:

  • Dramatic anti-aging effects
  • Weight loss
  • Increased amount of brain cells
  • Higher good cholesterol/lower bad cholesterol
  • Lower triglyceride levels
  • Stable blood pressure
  • General detoxification and drug detoxification
  • Clearer skin
  • Positive diet changes
  • Better resistance to disease
  • Reduction of allergies
  • Rest for digestive organs
  • Better sleep
  • Change of habits
  • Clearer planning
  • Better attitude
  • Creativity/ new ideas
  • Improved senses  (vision, hearing, taste)
  • Inspiration
  • More clarity (mentally and emotionally)
  • More energy
  • More relaxation
  • Purification, rejuvenation, and revitalization
  • Spiritual awareness

While filming the BBC documentary, Michael Mosley discovered that even eating unhealthily, by practicing intermittent fasting, his health improved markedly in a wide range of areas. Most notably, after a 4 day fast, his bad cholesterol was significantly lower, his unhealthy triglycerides were nearly halved, and most importantly, his levels of IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor) were more than halved.

Interestingly, fasting in mice, and potentially humans, also leads to an increased number of brain cells.  Researchers believe this is evolutionary, as, if you are without food, the number of synapses grow and neural networks expand to increase awareness and perception in order to more efficiently remember sources of food and to find new sources.

What is IGF-1, and Why Don’t I Want it? 

IGF-1 is a hormone produced in the body which is predominantly responsible for growth.  When you are young it is essential, but as we grow older it becomes one of our greatest enemies.  According to the BBC study, “The IGF-1 hormone (insulin-like growth factor) is one of the drivers which keep our bodies in go-go mode, with cells driven to reproduce. This is fine when you are growing, but not so good later in life.”

A great amount of research has gone into monitoring the effects of IGF-1 on the human body. Low levels of IGF-1 seem to correlate directly to an extended life span, less age related illnesses, and better overall health.  IGF-1 can be kept at low levels through a proper nutrient rich, low calorie diet.  It can also be dramatically lowered through fasting.

High levels of IGF-1 are directly related to obesity, cardiovascular disease, greater risk of age related illnesses, and higher rates of morbidity.

Fasting and Diet

Unfortunately, fasting once will not ensure long term health.  If you fast, and then go right back to the high calorie, low nutrition diet you ate before, you are guaranteed to have unhealthy levels of unwanted chemicals within a day or two.  They key is persistence and diet.

A nutrient rich diet filled with raw vegetables, leafy greens, fruits (especially berries), nuts, legumes, lentils, grains and oils high in poly and mono unsaturated fats like coconut oil will ensure long term, overall health. There are many tips and tricks to attain a truly nutrient dense diet.  An example of this is eating only the skin of an apple, since 95% of the nutrients are found in the skin. The rest is sugar.  This holds true for many fruits and vegetables.

Drop the sodas, diet or not, and start eating natural, life supporting foods.  Food can be the greatest medicine in the world.

For further information regarding nutrient dense foods head over to the Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition website to help get you started.

Cron-o-meter is a site that will help you track your calories, and nutrients down to the single amino acid and/or phyto nutrient!

As a final note, I love fasting.  I usually fast 1-2 days each week, with a lengthier fast every couple of months or so.  I feel lighter, freer, happier and more aware.  My senses become heightened, and the world seems more at peace.  The health benefits are just a bonus!

 

 

 

Sources and Resources to Take the Next Step:

Raw Food Explained: History of Fasting

All About Fasting: Types of Fasting

All About Fasting: Benefits of Fasting

BBC News: Proof Mounts on Restricted Diet

PubMeg.gov: Insulin-like Growth Factor-1: Compartmentalization within the somatotropic axis?

IGF-1 Receptor Regulates Lifespan and Resistance to Oxidative Stress in Mice

PNAS: Intermittent Fasting Dissociates Beneficial Effects of Dietary Restriction on Glucose Metabolism and Neuronal Resistance to Injury from Calorie Intake

Chicago Tribune: Can it! Soda Studies Cite Stronger Link to Obesity

Nutrient Rich Foods Coalition: Achieve Better Health: Your Guide to Nutrient-Rich Eating

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