New Leaf Organic Farm

The last two weeks I spent driving through Vermont, Montreal and Maine. The first week of it, I worked on an organic farm in Vermont through a program called WWOOF. Some of you may know I have a burgeoning interest in food politics and spending some time on a farm seemed like a logical next step. Also a great way to take a break from my typical work life in front of a computer.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is an international program that has been around since the 1970s. It helps connect volunteers with organic farms around the world, where folks exchange volunteer help on the farm for a place to stay (or camp), food and a lot of learning about organic farming. It’s a great program, and also a great way to travel and learn about farming. I’d recommend it to anyone! You have to get a membership to WWOOF to get their directory of farms, but I’d say it’s worth the $25.
Overall, it was an amazing experience. The farm was on a beautiful stretch of land in rural Vermont, and we stayed in this awesome solar-powered yurt (see slide show above) with beautiful views. The owner of the farm is Jill Kopel, an incredible woman who bought the farm (former dairy farm, as most of VT) nine years ago and is basically a one-woman show. She now has a two year old daughter who she often straps onto her back in a carrier and keeps going with her work. She blew me away.
New Leaf Organic Farm is a organic vegetable and flower farm, so we got to try our hand at harvesting a number of different things–tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, onions, green beans, swiss chard, beets, blueberries, cucumbers, the list goes on. Practically any vegetable that grows in VT. What was great about my week there, besides the beautiful scenery, was learning about how all these vegetables grow and seeing a bit of what it takes to grow our food.
I had no idea what a green bean plant looked like, or most of the vegetables I mentioned. I learned about what preparation goes into getting vegetables to the farmer’s market, or a CSA. I learned about the potato and tomato blight, and how weather can seriously affect a farmer’s livelihood. Added bonus that I got to work with an awesome woman entrepreneur and farmer.
After this experience, I’m on board with the food activists who say gardening and farming should be a part of our public education. Even if most of us aren’t going to grow our own food, it would do a lot for us to at least know how it’s done. There has been increasing popularity in school garden projects, and farm to school programs, and I think that’s a great thing.

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11 Comments

  1. femme.
    Posted August 26, 2009 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    That sounds like a beautiful growing experience, Miriam. WWOOF seems like an amazing organization, I’ve never heard of them before this post. A friend of mine spent the summer at a farm two years ago and she still talks about it. I wholeheartedly agree – gardening and farming should be part of our public education.

  2. AnnaMice
    Posted August 26, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I go to Middlebury College, and it sounds like New Leaf Farms is relatively nearby – their website says they’re starting a CSA drop-off at the Middlebury co-op. I’m excited to see you’ve been up in my neck of the woods, and I can attest to the general amazing-ness of Vermont!

  3. vertigo29
    Posted August 26, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Yeah! I’ll be doing HelpX.net (similar to WWOOF) next week, so I was very pleased to read this post. I also plan to do a New England/Canada trip next year like yours… very exciting! Definably more people should know about this! :)

  4. Miriam
    Posted August 26, 2009 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Yep it’s right near Middlebury–we spent sometime in town. There is a cool diner there called the Farmer’s diner where the majority of the food is sourced from local farmers. Check it out! http://www.farmersdiner.com/

  5. Comrade Kevin
    Posted August 26, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I find it so interesting that we used to believe that technology would be the salvation of humanity and that older techniques like these needed to be put onto the scrap heap of history. Now we return to them.
    For example, my Grandfather grew up as a poor yeoman farmer who couldn’t afford to use anything other than “organic” techniques to raise food for his family. When someone opened a textile mill, he was glad to step away from farming and was quick to get a job in the mill instead. He always said that farming was such hard work that he never had any desire to return to it for the rest of his life.

  6. Jen
    Posted August 26, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I love that you worked for a woman named Jill Stanek.
    Good to know it wasn’t this one.
    Does she know that she shares a name with such a crazy wingnut?
    Also, yay WWOOFing! I have a friend who’s been doing that all around New Zealand for the past few months, and she has yet to have a bad experience with any of the farms she’s worked at.

  7. Miriam
    Posted August 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I actually totally screwed up her name–sorry Jill! She’s actually Jill Kopel, not the other one.

  8. Tenya
    Posted August 26, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Haha, glad to know I wasn’t the only one who was thinking “the anti-abortion one? Runs an organic farm?” but even if she did share a name it would have been interesting!

  9. LindySlav
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I am excited for you about this trip as well, Miriam. I agree that public school education should include something on basic agricultural practices. My partner and I live in Brooklyn and we have a container garden on our fire escape and our living room. We have been growing We grow tomatoes, a variety of herbs, sweet peas, kale and peppers. It’s not exactly a bumper crop, but every bit we use of our own is a bit that we don’t have to buy. We still support local farmers buy purchasing the rest of our veggies and other food from the farmer’s market, but it is nice to only have to go as far as the next room when I want basil and tomatoes…

  10. cherylboberyl
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    i love wwoof.
    i love food politics.
    i love growing food.
    i love this post!

  11. cherylboberyl
    Posted August 27, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    i love wwoof.
    i love food politics.
    i love growing food.
    i love this post!
    related things i love:
    http://www.windowfarms.org/
    http://seedlibrary.org/blightee/

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