International Volunteers Come To Pocahontas County Farm
Huntersville, WV – An international program that places volunteers on organic farms is starting to bring people from across the world to a farm in Pocahontas County. A young couple from Germany and Denmark were the first volunteers to visit Zendik Arts Farm in Pocahontas County through the WWOOF program.
The funny-sounding acronym stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It started in the UK in 1971 and has since become an international movement that aims to help people share more sustainable ways of living. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic farming and living.
In West Virginia alone, there are now 16 farms participating as WWOOF hosts. They range in size from 20 acres to more than 500 acres.
Zendik Arts Farm, an intentional artists community and farm, falls in the middle of that range. Located south of Huntersville, it’s such a recent addition to WWOOF that it doesn’t appear in the printed host directory. However, Rike Toennies and Karsten Degn say they came across Zendik’s listing on the WWOOF USA website.
Toennies says they liked what they found in their online research.
“It has gardening and animals,” she says. “Some places are just without animals.”
“There was a link to the webpage,” she continues, “and there were pictures on there the setup was really nice.”
Over the past week, Degn says they got to try a little bit of everything on the farm.
“Mostly we’ve been in the garden, picking out all the weeds,” he says. “And I’ve been milking the goats, as well.”
Degn and Toennies were preparing to leave the farm on Monday, but another WWOOF volunteer, or WWOOFer was due on the farm Thursday. As Toennies explains, WWOOF allows people to stitch together an itinerary that fits their travel schedule.
“We’re going to Washington D.C. to see the must-sees and afterwards to New York,” she says. “And then we’re heading up north towards Canada, so probably we will look for a farm in New Hampshire.”
Zendik Arts Director Arol Wulfing says she was impressed with the level of work Zendik’s first WWOOFers put into the farm.
“I mean they came in we’ve been inundated with weeds this year and we were late on everything,” she says. “They get up early in the morning and worked as long as they want.”
“Karsten is I wanted a video of him, because his form in hoeing is so beautiful, I wanted to show it,” Wulfing says. “They really got our garden in shape they really have. And Karsten grew up on a dairy farm, so he milked goats, and that was fun for him, because he had never done that. They’ve just been wonderful people.”
Wulfing says she also appreciates the program’s transparency. Volunteers can post online reviews of their experience at the farm, and she can likewise post her impressions of the volunteers. With the organization’s emphasis on organic farms and organic living, Wulfing says the program attracts people who already bring that mindset with them.
“There’s a big emphasis on organic obviously because it’s Opportunities for Organic Farming,’ and I feel very strongly about that,” Wulfing says. “So, in front, you have an ethic right away, so we don’t have to (say), Now, now, I don’t want to use this, and I don’t want to use that,’ because they don’t want to use it.”
“So it’s an opportunity for them to learn organic methods, and it’s an opportunity for us to spread the word about organics,” says Wulfing. “It works very well and it goes with a philosophy that I really believe in.”
Because Zendik got on the WWOOF directory late in the season, Wulfing says she expects that the flow of volunteers for the remainder of the summer will be patchy. But she’s already looking forward to next summer, when she expects a regular stream of volunteers looking to work on the farm.