As I dig back into my photo archives, I can virtually witness one of the largest personal transformations I've gone through in my life so far. After graduating high school early and "running away" to Northern California on a whim at 17, I found myself going down the rabbit hole. I'll admit it.. I was a hot MESS. That may sound worse than it actually was. However, too much drinking, odd jobs, and inexhaustible desire to party left me feeling lost. The kind of lost so many of us seem to go through in our first years away from home. I wanted to find a passion. I wanted something real, something that could cleanse away the ridiculous damage I was subjecting myself to.
After several weeks of research, I left for the Big Island of Hawaii to learn how to grow food. I was terrified! Luckily, the organization WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) linked me up with the 130 acre fruit/tomato farm I worked on for several weeks. I later transferred to another farm in the mountains of Honoka'a. WWOOFing is a popular resource for thousands of people around the world, who seek an enlightening work-trade opportunity, while exploring a new state or country. It helped me completely change my course in life, while introducing me to countless sustainable, inspiring individuals.
As described on their website "WWOOF specializes in linking people who are passionate about healthy food, healthy living and a healthy planet. Join us, show your support for the organic movement and start learning (or sharing) ways of living a more sustainable life."
I arrived with absolutely zero knowledge about how food is grown. I find this ironic to look back on, as my 12 years in secondary school taught me absolutely nothing about one of the most vital aspects of life itself. I was given a small bed in a shack and a $40 weekly stipend for groceries (outside of what I could forage for). Every aspect of my first week on the farm felt as if i'd been born again. We woke at 4:30 AM, had coffee, held hands in a circle and stated our intentions for the day, and headed to the massive greenhouses. Our first job of the day was to gently tap the tomato plants, mimicking natures subtle wake-up call. This duty was theorized by our team leaders and oftentimes questionable in it's efficiency. However, the concept alone was so transformative. The thought that I could participate in natures process and mimic the feeling rain drops would give the leaves was incredible. I was hooked.
The following weeks I found myself eating bizarre fruits, swimming in the warm pacific, exploring run-down experimental fruit farms, eating avocados straight from the tree, and going to bed at 8 PM. We didn't have internet or access to town (unless we hitched). I spent many days just wandering around the property after work, examining the fruit trees and seeking any sort of edible good to bring home. At the time, I was unaware of how rapidly my mindset was shifting. I didn't realize I was tapping into the source of life I had been longing for. I picked the majority of my food. I ached and slept deeply. I watched our water catchment fill up each afternoon when the rain came. I was at the source of what was keeping me alive, in turn, making me feel whole again.
Looking back, I feel such deep gratitude for this time in my life. My gut led me out of my comfort zone and slapped me in the face with what is vital and important. Since my WWOOFing experience 2012, I've spent the last 5 years working on organic produce/CSA farms in Northern California. From planting thousands of onions, hoeing till my arms feel like they're about to fall off, and sharing the bounty at farmers market, I've never been happier! I hope to continue farming as long as I can and would love to exchange and share knowledge with anyone interested.