We tested ‘wwoofing’, two weeks immersed in a fine organic farm

Every year, about 10,000 people, mostly young people, spend a few weeks on organic farms in France, with the aim of learning how to cultivate the land, gaining knowledge of sustainable farming or simply with the idea of ​​living differently. something. After the covid pandemic, The number of volunteers in these accommodations increased by a quarterAccording to the association Wwoof France that has coordinated them since 2007. For this experiment, I spent two weeks on a small farm in Gard, along with two gardeners and beekeepers at the market. In the program: sowing, planting, harvesting …

It’s 11 a.m. on Monday, August 29. The bus has just dropped me in the center of Uzis, a historic town about thirty kilometers north of Nîmes. Here I have an appointment with my host. Remy and Sophie, Thirty-two years old from the area, they settled as gardeners in the market A year and a half ago, on the farm of Clos d’Uzès. All year round, they produce vegetables on their two hectares of land, as well as olive oil and chestnut honey in the high season. They do not use any treatment on their farm and are in the process of obtaining the “organic farming” label.

wwoofing principle (l Global Opportunities in Organic Farms) is what: Share the farm’s lifestyle and learn from its hosts, helping them four to five hours a day in their activities. The traveler or amplifier is housed and fed on the farm He can make use of his spare time to discover the surroundings. Founded in England in 1971, this popular educational movement in organic farming has spread across the world. He arrived in France in 2007, where the association supervising him was, Wwoof France now has around 20,000 members. (18000 loudspeakers and 2000 farms).

Discover another way of life

As soon as I arrived, Remy showed me around. At the entrance to the farm is a labyrinth (a typical stone house for the area, 40 sq.m.), where the couple lives all year round. Immediately in front are two other woofeuses, the Anglo-Saxons who have finished their stay, cooking pasta with vegetables from the garden in the outside kitchen. All products consumed here come from organic farming. A little further away, behind the olive trees, there is a chalet and a caravan that welcomes passing guests. As for the toilets, dry toilets are installed at the bottom of the garden and the shower is in the oil tank.

The speakers reside in a chalet and in a caravan in the first part of the park.
The speakers reside in a chalet and in a caravan in the first part of the park.

© Radio France
– Juliet J

Back to our food sources

The day starts at seven in the morning, before sunrise. After a hearty breakfast, we begin to harvest vegetables. It has arrived at the height of green bean season. Equipped with a wicker basket and scissors, we clear the rows and cut the largest beans one by one. “You have to take the ones the size of a pen‘, Remy appears. We bend down, squat, dig into the leaves … A row of beans takes about an hour to workEspecially when starting out. Surprisingly, I don’t feel any physical pain. On the other hand, during the early days, my mind went blank, thinking of nothing but these green stems. This is very beautiful.

We separate, in a separate basket, the beans pierced by the caterpillars. All damaged vegetables will be cooked and consumed on the farm. In a few hours we’ll be selling the rest at the organic grocery store in downtown Uzis, and then tonight during the farm direct sale. This is one of the most interesting aspects of woofing: being at the origin and end of the vegetable production chain. Harvest, weigh, calculate the price of the box. Measure all the risks that allowed or did not allow this tomato to end up on our plate.

When harvesting permits, Sophie and Remy organize the direct sale of vegetables on the farm.
When harvesting permits, Sophie and Remy organize the direct sale of vegetables on the farm.

© Radio France
– Juliet J

This year, a drought has greatly hampered summer production. harvest ? “disastrousWell aware of the vicissitudes of business, they are constantly looking for solutions to make their farm work. Among the rows of vegetables, they come from the vegetable fruit trees to shade the crops.

relearn learning

Every day the activities change. The next day, we remove weeds among the beets, and then treat the plantings of fennel and parsley. It is a matter of transplanting them, that is, passing them from small pots into the soil of the field. It is necessary to make lines and arrange them in overlapping rows. It is not clear. Soon I got lost and Remy came back to change every plant. For the first few days, I restrained an eight-year-old’s questions: “What is it ?“,”what is the point ?“,”Why do we do that?“The extent of my host’s knowledge seems amazing to me. But Sophie and Remy have always been responsive with their pedagogy.

If the fact of doubling these explanations takes time, then the couple will not get tired of it. “The questions and the way things are dealt with are different each time“, explains Sophie. Moreover, “helping hand brought by the loudspeakers can not be neglected“Remy adds,”Even if we do not base our business on this workforce.” The relationship with the megaphone already has It has nothing to do with a farm worker. The megaphone is not alone in the field. It is initially understood that he does not know how to do much and that he is not obligated to perform.

Part of the operation of the Clos d'Uzès farm.  In the foreground, zucchini plants, and on the left, tomatoes.
Part of the operation of the Clos d’Uzès farm. In the foreground, zucchini plants, and on the left, tomatoes.

© Radio France
– Juliet J

Since opening their farm in April 2021, Sophie and Remy have seen the passing of about twenty speakers. Many beginners, some more experienced, They gain as much knowledge as possible before they start growing organic gardens themselves.

Be aware of your energy consumption

Besides the horticultural activity in the market, the Clos d’Uzès farm has another major advantage: It is self-sufficient in energy. Opposite the Mazet, there is a large red tank that stores the water extracted from the ground, thanks to a well. Everywhere, photovoltaic panels capture solar energy, which supplies the entire property with electricity. Here, there is no invoice other than that of the Internet Fund. From time to time, Remy buys a gas bottle for the kitchen.

It was he who created this installation, when he refurbished the mazes, in his twenties. The son of an electrician, largely self-taught, did so first for economic reasons,”Then my environmental conscience intensified.” He says. He is now looking forEnvironmental consistency, being as fair as possible between what I can consume on this planet and my needs“.

On the left, a red tank that stores water that is pumped into the ground, and on the right, a photovoltaic panel that supplies the farm with electricity.
On the left, a red tank that stores water that is pumped into the ground, and on the right, a photovoltaic panel that supplies the farm with electricity.

© Radio France
– Juliet J

During the stay, we learn that Limit energy consumption to what is necessarywithout depriving yourself. The caravan is equipped with a ceiling light, a bedside lamp and a power strip. In the morning, we simply think about turning off the latter, so as not to unnecessarily drain the battery located a little far away. The same for bathing: The water is pumped a few meters away and heated thanks to the sun’s raysSo we try to be careful to leave some for others especially on rainy days. By making energy tangible, we realize the amount we consume on a daily basis and the ease with which we can reduce unnecessary expenditures. Every gesture for the environment becomes necessary and is no longer a drop in the ocean.

Is it a loss of comfort? For some travelers, it may seem like this. But woofers are notified as soon as the announcement is made, when they choose their farm on the association’s website. For Remy and Sophie, this is not one, far from it: “We have electricity, light and hot water. The only things I had to do without an iron and a hairdryer, it’s okaySophie explains, a smile in her voice. There is no question of dispensing with social life or entertainment. They are very involved in the life of the local community and regularly organize concerts and parties on their farm. Remy is a drummer and owns a music studio on the property. During the summer, not a day goes by without a colleague or friend stopping by for coffee.

human exchange

In the evening, when everyone returns from their activities, we gather around a good meal. The menu here is vegetarian and we cook together. Often such dinners are the occasion for long conversations between hosts and woofers. “It allows us to meet people from all over the world, and takes us out of our fieldsExplains Remy, who traveled like Sophie before returning to settle in the area.

There are a lot of exchanges that lead us to our work, for example tips on situations. And beyond, filled with more philosophical exchanges about how we view lifeSophie adds:We also want to get people to discover our way of life and our way of production.After studying agricultural engineering and a first experience in agricultural insuranceshe chose to approach the Earth and conserve the planet, which she was always convinced of the necessity: “I wanted to do something concrete, and this is how I found it as useful as possible“, as you say.

When it’s time for bed, I return to the dry toilets, before I join my cart by the light of my mobile phone. I shut off my mosquito net and hope I don’t have to get up at night. Sometimes it all happens the same. But at three o’clock in the morning, the spectacle of the sky filled with thousands of stars was like no other.


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ahmed92aissa

ahmed92aissa

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