written by Elena from Austria.
“Compost tea” …
… Is a wonderful drink. Naturally, it depends on who you prepare it for. Take freshly dug and weeded soil, for example. The bacteria and fungi in it will love it …
Such was the demonstration of “brewing tea” this afternoon as part of the 2008 WWOOF Festival hosted by Honey Anderson at her wonderful property in Dunsandel, 40 minutes south of Christchurch.
Rather than “organic compost tea”, however, woofers and hosts went in favour of the delicious international lunch arrangements and Nicola Gallaway’s fantastic Slow Food creations, all of which were brought together as part of a truly unique day on the celebration and sharing of organic principles.
So what was this year’s festival all about? Arriving at Honey’s place, we were first given a chance to introduce ourselves and the countries we were from, including a quick run-down on our previous woofing experiences and future expectations.
However, as nationalities don’t usually dictate the way you pull up weeds or dig up the garden, our first task saw us quickly back on the same level again, lending a helping hand in Honey’s garden over a merry collection of green and brown cuts in order to prepare a compost pile!
The animal poo, by the way, was already provided for this… smelly business! Hosted by Jim the “Dirt Doctor”, we thus learned how to prepare a yummy little compost “sandwich”, all of which was created and stacked up by the weeds and branches we had just collected off the garden beds and hedges. Heat and moisture are important elements to this, as is the right smell (yes, a compost can and should actually smell good in order to have beneficial effects on your soil!).
We then went on with another one of Jim’s demonstrations on how to dig up garden beds for planting vegetables before sharing deliciously prepared potluck lunch and discussing what we had just learned on top of our previous experiences. Networking and common enthusiasm for organics provided a really nice atmosphere in which discussions between woofers and hosts could thrive and many an interesting experience shared.
After lunch, we enjoyed two presentations given by Jim on organic farming research and Holger Kahl from the OANZ (Organic Aotearoa New Zealand). The main message across both discussions tied in with a recent proposal made by WWOOF regarding the establishment of a so-called Edu-Wwoof programme. The idea is to bring together hosts and woofers with a specific interest in learning / teaching organic principles, as opposed to “simply having a few days holiday on a farm”. Lively brainstorming and discussion filled the late afternoon / evening before Nicola Gallaway went on stage demonstrating her skill and passion for “Slow Food”, seasonal cooking and organic ingredients. Probably the most important understanding we took from her was that “slow food” was neither boring nor taking up ages to prepare – on the contrary, it is about YOU taking time to savour the ingredients, thinking about their origins and the love that went into their preparation … Bon Appétit!
The delicious meals spread throughout the day had woofers and hosts alike slowly winding up over the evening, finishing in another presentation by Jim before the festival finally came to an end.
All in all, this day was a perfect networking opportunity, included many a good anecdote on sustainable and organic farming / growing and the possibility to forge new contacts and develop our personal networks.
Having only become a recent member of WWOOF in New Zealand, I must say that this day has really got me enthusiastic about sharing my skills and learning about organics as I continue travelling. I certainly look forward to a lot more happy and stimulating experiences like these!
And once again, it was demonstrated: If a group of young people come together and get passionate about a certain subject, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE! Feel free to ask Honey about this or drop by and have a look at her garden…and the beauty and passion that went into piling up and stomping on her compost ground. See you out there. Happy WOOFing ? !
Elena has recently finished studying sustainable & cultural tourism management and has always had a passion for naturally grown food according to the principles of organic farming. Her skills and eagerness to travel Aotearoa New Zealand have led her to first support Creative Tourism New Zealand (www.creativetourism.co.nz) before signing up with the WOOF-Organisation in May 2008. She is looking forward to making the most out of the exchange offered in terms of intercultural awareness, sustainable lifestyle methods and New Zealand’s proven expertise in the field.