By Jude Wiggins, Geography, University of Queensland, Australia
After my Australian Summer travelling around the Philippines and Indonesia was over I still had roughly a month of free time before I was due to go back to University. Most of the friends I’d made last semester had either gone back to the UK for Christmas or were still travelling, so Brisbane was a little lonely! A friend had mentioned to me that you can earn good money working on farms in the Outback so I decided to do some research. Through my research I was introduced to the idea of WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). You do roughly 5 hours work per day on an organic farm and in exchange receive food and accommodation. Although WWOOFing isn’t paid work it was still something to do and I wanted a new experience! I found an advertisement for an Edible Flower farm called Pretty Produce on an island just south of Brisbane called Lamb Island. I emailed the farm owner and arranged to start the next week!
Pretty Produce Edible Flower Farm, Lamb Island.
I spent just over two weeks working on the farm and it was a very valuable, educational experience. I have a whole new respect for Organic farmers – it’s hard work! I also didn’t realise just how many plants and flowers are actually edible. However no pesticides means that all the beds have to be hand weeded and cared for which is quite physically demanding in the Subtropical climate. Although because of the climate Simone, the farm owner and founder of the company Pretty Produce, was able to grow some spectacular flowers. The majority of her produce goes to restaurants, bars (think special cocktails) and cake companies.Personally, my favourite plant was the Cranberry Hibiscus – so delicious! In addition the farm relies on Volunteers who, like me, have no experience or little knowledge of how to garden or farm. November to May is also considered to be the wet season in Queensland, although this year there’s been very little rain. This meant we had to hand water all the crops which took up a lot of time (time= money etc etc.).
Just some of the plants grown at Pretty Produce farm.
Everyday I learnt something new, the importance of Companion Planting, the name of a new flower or plant. Simone was so keen to teach me about all the plants, where they originated from and how they could be used in a meal! I also got to try a lot of new foods which was nice, obviously Cranberry Hibiscus was a favourite but also Noodle Beans, Dianthus’, an Ancient Grain, Egyptian Spinach and Blood Plums (plus many more). It’s pretty cool being able to pick vegetables, fruits and flowers from the farm and then cook them in your meals the same day. And not to sound too bohemian but being on the farm really made me think about where my food comes from and what chemicals have been used to aid it’s growth. As I said before Organic farming is really difficult and I feel that the farmers deserve a lot more credit.
Overall my first WWOOFing experience was amazing. It’s also a great way to get free accommodation when you’re travelling as you live with a family and see what life is really like in that country. I will definitely look for more WWOOFing opportunities when I travel in the future! There is also an official website for WWOOFers and Organic Farmers so you can make sure you sign up to a legit, safe farm!