Latest NewsTaking my vacation up a notch with WWOOF
Why did I decide to volunteer with WWOOF?
I think it must have been sometime around 2014 when I first heard about WWOOF
(World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). It had always sounded like a cool idea and I kept it in the back of my mind but I had never found a good moment to get involved. If I’m honest, I’m kind of introverted and I think I had been making excuses for years to not get started and was secretly hoping I could convince a friend of mine to try it with me, at least to start. I’m still waiting on that friend to join me! But I did take the opportunity myself to try it for the first time in Thailand.
This winter I found myself in Thailand with my best friend. He works in China and somehow convinced me to join him on his Lunar New Year vacation. During our trip another friend of mine said they were coming to Thailand a week after my best friend had to leave. This was the perfect opportunity, I wanted to make the most of my trip and see both of my friends and had a little over a week to either explore myself.
I bought a subscription to WWOOF Thailand and got to work looking for farms. It seemed like the perfect solution to that extra time I found myself with. I’d expand my very limited knowledge of farm life and farm techniques, dig a little deeper into Thai culture, help out a local farm, and eat some good food. My time at Torry’s Organic Farm lived up to all my expectations and then some.
I took a three-hour train ride from Bangkok to Prachantakham (you know I have to look this place up every single time I need to talk about it) the closest train station to Torry’s farm, it cost a whopping 80¢ USD. I got to the station and Torry came to pick me up with the two volunteers that were also wwoofing with him. They made sure to greet me with a warm welcome, we went out for lunch and after got Thai tea to go. Torry was very excited to show me Thai tea, but as a California native from the bay area boba can be a daily ritual. Luckily, you can never have too much tea!
My first day on the farm, was not a farm day at all. We woke up at 5am, and headed out to Khao Yai National Park. Khao Yai is the third largest national park in Thailand and man, was it impressive! We drove around to many short hiking sites, you absolutely need a vehicle to get around this huge park. The two volunteers I was sharing my time here with really wanted to see an elephant. None of that elephant park stuff. They wanted to be lucky enough to see one of Thailand’s last wild elephants, and we saw one! We had a pretty large male walk right next to our car. And got to see his family as we drove past him. I’m throwing this part in here just to shout out Torry for being an amazing host and cultural ambassador. I also loved getting to see some of the natural spaces of Thailand and instead of donating to a private organization to touch or ride an elephant, putting that money toward maintaining their remaining ecosystems (hopefully).
Back to business. First real day on the farm! Waking up at 8 was nothing after waking up at 5 the day before, so I was up and ready to start the day. I started the day by meeting the couple I would be working with for the next week, Auntie and Uncle. They were in no way anyone’s auntie nor uncle, but Torry knew none of us foreigners would be able to say their real names. He was right. It took me almost the whole week to get their names correct.
Learning farm activities
Auntie and Uncle spoke exactly zero English. This was going to be fun. I followed Auntie to the duck pen, I studied her morning routine hoping to be some sort of help tomorrow. The ducks flew out of the pen the moment Auntie opened it, ready to scour the farm for whatever goodies they could find. We did make sure all the ducks were getting enough to eat by giving them a good amount of food on top of their roaming activities. After the ducks had been fed it was Easter! We got to collect all the eggs that had been laid that morning. Then we relaxed and ate breakfast. Auntie and Uncle were quick to share their breakfast snacks with me. They would snack on fried fish, banana rice, rice sesame crackers, a bunch of stuff that to this day I have no idea what it was but it tasted great.
After breakfast we would wash, count, and sort the eggs. Torry produced a lot of eggs! A little under 200 a day, this was a lower count than he was used to but he attributed that to the ducks being stressed. At the time I was visiting he was in the process of constructing 2 green houses, I’m sure they’re finished at the time of this writing and I’m sure there is some exciting stuff happening in them!
Helping the team
A lot of my day was spent following around Auntie, Uncle, and Torry and helping them manage the farm. Sometimes Torry sold his products at the market, bought and dropped off materials etc. I have helped on farms here and there, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. Anyway, every project has its own objectives, so I was a student here. I did get to go to the market with Torry a couple of times and get some local souvenirs, medicines, and eat some amazing food.
Torry was experimenting with and making his own fertilizer on the farm. He would take a mix of raw duck egg and pond water from his fish ponds and leave this mixture out in the sun for a while creating bright red and green potions that could later be used to fertilize the plants. I thought about how cool it is that Torry is using the local environment to create a fertilizer that undoubtedly contains microorganisms from his particular area that are locally adapted to this environment. Cool!
Getting creative with available resources
Another cool thing Torry is doing that caught my attention is pickling his eggs. I love me a good pickle! Pickling eggs is not unusual in Thailand, however Torry is pickling duck eggs, and using a different herb blend than what is popular. I didn’t have the opportunity to taste one of these beautiful creations of his, I guess I’ll have to make it back to Thailand someday for a bite.
This might sound ridiculous, but after only a week I was dreading saying goodbye. Especially to Auntie. We had somehow, without speaking a word to each other really bonded. She would ride me around on her motorcycle to go buy tea and noodles. She introduced me to the community. She brought me to a religious gathering in the town where one of the local boys was becoming a monk. Where I was awkwardly and hilariously forced to dance with all the older women at the party. Luckily here one of her nieces could translate for us.
I learned a very important word, “samseep” meaning 30. After telling Auntie I was 30 I noticed it was the first thing out of her mouth every time she introduced me to someone. I’m sure she was saying: “this girl is 30! And not married!” She really did become my auntie. I held back tears when I said goodbye to her, I think because I knew I’d never see her again. Thankfully, I can contact and speak to Torry easily, so that goodbye was less devastating.
Would I do it again?
Yes! I don’t want to bore our readers with a play-by-play of every day I spent on the farm but I can say this was my most memorable experience in Thailand. It was rewarding, fun, a great workout, tasty, and educational- culturally, historically, and agriculturally. I was in Thailand for over a month. I can say without a doubt, I learned more about the culture, food, and lifestyle in one week on Torry’s farm than I did in that month wandering Thailand as a tourist. I’m so happy to have had this experience where I felt as though I was contributing to something I believe in, albeit for a very short period of time. Food sovereignty for all!
PS. If any of our readers have any questions about Wwoofing, Torry’s farm, or my time there. Feel free to ask!
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