Maude Nijskens, a 24-year-old woman from Belgium who just completed her master’s degree in bioengineering, crouches in the soil on a Yellow Point farm to pull weeds from a row of carrots.
Wyndlow Acres is the fifth farm Nijskens has worked on since coming to North America in February. The last was a winery near Monticello, Utah. Nijskens was so impressed by the sparse population and a landscape of natural stone arches, sandstone buttes and canyons dotted with Anasazi ruins that she decided to double the length of time she planned to stay.
“It was a big vineyard in Monticello, in Montezuma Canyon,” Nijskens said. “It was my first time there and I decided to stay one month.”
Nijskens is a WWOOFer, a member of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms network that connects people wanting to travel the world with organic farm owners offering room and board in exchange for labour.
Isobelle Morris and her husband Ian Wyndlow have six hectares of their 22-ha farm planted with carrots, squash, corn, asparagus, potatoes – 55 crops in all – that are sold at farmers’ markets and through the Farmship Growers Co-operative.
Wyndlow Acres is the first Canadian farm Nijskens has worked on and her first experience with all aspects of farm production.
“Here it’s great to see how a market works and all the work you have to do before going to market,” Nijskens said.
Nijskens, whose older brother was a WWOOFer who also travelled to Canada after completing university, wanted to see more of the world and work outdoors and was already involved in the sustainability movement at home.
“So WWOOFing has everything in one spot,” she said.
Wyndlow Acres has been a WWOOF host farm since 2011. There are about 30 such farms in the central Island region.
With crops ripening early this year there’s plenty of work, Morris said, and WWOOFer labour helps keep the farm economically viable.
Wyndlow Acres has hosted WWOOFers from South Korea, Japan and China. The majority have come from Germany.
“My children really enjoy having people from abroad and I think it’s a great experience for them to meet people from different countries and learn a few words in a different language,” Morris said.
To learn more about World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, please visit the organization’s website at www.wwoof.ca.