WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, formerly Willing Workers on Organic Farms. It is a group of organizations that helps connect those interested in learning about organic farming with hosts around the world.

In exchange for 4-6 hours of help each day on the farm, visitors receive free meals and lodging. Many people use "WWOOFing" as an alternative way to travel on a tight budget. Others stay for longer apprenticeships or internships.

WWOOF-USA has its own directory (a $20 membership fee allows you access to the online directory for one year, as well as a printed copy of the WWOOF guide) - to participate in other countries you must apply directly to their respective WWOOF groups.

A long-time animal and nature-lover, I have always dreamed of living in a rural setting. My childhood home was in a suburban residential neighborhood, but surrounded by farmland. I had friends who lived on acres with fields, ponds, creeks, and apple orchards, and I hoped that someday I could raise animals on a hobby farm (even if not until retirement).

Although my mother is a prolific green thumb (a Master Gardener in fact), my own interest in gardening is more recent. With hopes of learning more about organic gardening practices, I signed up for WWOOF-USA recently.

As I was excitedly browsing through the WWOOF guide, I noticed one humble listing for a backyard CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) garden just 2 miles from where I work! I sent an e-mail to the gardener asking if I could volunteer for a few hours once a week in exchange for mentoring (and perhaps a few fresh veggies).

Imagine my delight when I went to meet the "urban farmer" who not only keeps a garden full of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but also 10 egg-laying hens! I have since helped out in the garden four times, and have enjoyed not only the hands-on experience of organic gardening, but also delicious, freshly-laid eggs, and zucchini that became zucchini bread for various holiday-season potlucks.

Cooking from scratch is a fairly new venture for me. I was a long-time lazy cook who relied on convenient, affordable, delicious frozen foods from Trader Joe's. For a variety of reasons, I have been making an effort to participate more in all the processes involved in putting food on my table - from the growing of vegetables to the preparing of dishes from scratch - to how food waste is disposed of. I have also been slowly "greening" my kitchen by transitioning from Teflon-coated "non-stick" pots and pans to cast iron and aluminum-core stainless steel cookware.

In future posts, I will go into more depth about my experiences in the local "WWOOF garden," experiments in the kitchen, kitchen equipment upgrades, attempts to reduce consumption of disposable or over-packaged goods, and much more.

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