Lessons from an Organic Blueberry Farmer


I skipped class on Friday. I skipped class,
packed my bags, and drove two and a half hours to WWOOF. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities
Through Organic Farms. It’s a website that connects people with farmers. In exchange
for your volunteer work, they give you a place to stay and food. I went to a blueberry farm,
and wasn’t sure what to expect. The first night was awesome. Me and the other WWOOFer,
Lisa, helped bottle wine that the owner, Rich, had been fermenting. There were plenty of
mistakes to be made. Messes to be cleaned up. And laughs to be had. But hey, by the
end of the night, we had some pretty decent wine. And then the next morning, came the
hard work. This is pine bark. This is a lot of pine bark. Our job was the shovel it into
the trailer and then put it down on the rows of blueberry plants. Next we flattened it
out with our hands, and repeated the process. Shovel it, drop it, and spread it out. We
would do this until the sun was low in the sky. When you work that hard with someone
for that long, you really get to know them. So I was living in LA and working in Beverly
Hills selling lasers, surgical lasers, in Beverly Hills where my grandparents had died.
So I told them that I was going to buy the land from them and that I would sell off the
last of the herd that we’ve had in our family for over a century and basically start a blueberry
farm. It was my brother’s girlfriend on Christmas day surprised me with a gift. She opened up
my laptop, went to the WWOOFing website, and there were pictures of the farm and a write
up about what we do. I thought to myself, this is fantastic. What a great gift.And she
explained to me what WWOOFing was. The thing about it is I didn’t know what to expect.
And I didn’t think it would work to tell you the truth. I mean, who would want to come
out in the middle of nowhere and spread pine bark and plant blueberry bushes. Well, it
turns out, a lot of people did. What they get out of it, I think, is a reconnection
to the land. A real appreciation for what goes into making food. There’s a lot that
goes into all the ingredients to make our food and blueberry farming is not different.
But it’s so much more than that. It’s not just about agriculture it’s about connecting
with people. Watching two WWOOFers interact with each other that have never met each other
before…it’s magic. I’ve seen people fall in love here, from two completely different
countries. I’ve taught one WWOOFer how to swim. I got two other WWOOFers jobs, I’ve
been a reference many times over. A lot of the skills they learn here are things that
they would have never learned otherwise like how to drive a tractor, how to use heavy equipment,
how to care for plants. All of those things really aren’t going to help them get that
next accounting job. But it does show that they can be responsible productive members
of society, and that has value. For me it was a deal breaker not to go organic it had
to be organic. I mean, at the end of the day, I make a fraction of the money I otherwise
would staying in corporate America where I was. So, it had to be something wholesome
for me. I have children and when they’re walking down the rows and they’re going shoulder deep
into blueberry bushes to pull out the fruit and they pop them into their mouth right from
the bush, I don’t have to worry about all the chemicals. There’s a lot of pesticides,
there’s a lot of herbicides, there’s fungal sprays that conventional farmers put on there
that’s just not good for your health. It’s just not good for your health. There’s been
some studies by Stanford University and other institutions that have shown that the nutrient
levels are not significantly different. I think they’re not looking at it the right
way. Nutrient levels are immaterial if your food is covered in chemicals. On our last
night, we had dinner, and a bonfire. I’ve never been in better company. I don’t plan
on ever being a farmer. But, I never thought I could learn so much in two days. I left
feeling so much more conscious about nature. I left with an eagerness to go back. Nothing
beats pine bark.

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