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Now that you’ve got your farmers market skills on par, the next step in eating wholly and living greener is to be a part of the actual process of food production—in this case, the farm. Volunteering your time at a farm can be an incredibly rewarding and eye-opening experience. Farm life always includes a large amount of chores that need to be done daily from planting seeds and tending to garden beds, to taking care of livestock and harvesting produce. Once you’ve stepped into the shoes of a farmer, you’ll never look at a tomato the same way again. I was lucky enough to volunteer at Marando Farms, a mini urban organic farm located in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, and I learned a thing or two about where my food comes from.
I chose to volunteer at Marando Farms because they have a variety of growing spaces within one lot and therefore, more learning opportunities. I was able to work on raised garden beds, an aquaponics system, and tiered planters during my short stint as a farm hand. Once you find a farm that peaks your interest, approach the head farmer (in-person or online) about volunteering. Many farms like Marando regularly accept volunteers and even have an on-site coordinator.
Be sure to show up ready to work in the proper gardening attire. You’re going to get dirty so leave your tennis shoes at home and grab work boots instead. A brimmed hat will prove essential once summer hits. Farming chores are tough work so pack a few water bottles to stay hydrated during the day.
Depending on the farm you volunteer at and the season, your tasks will vary. At Marando, I spent hours weeding the farm beds, planting seedlings, spreading compost, and watering everything in my sight. However, my all-time favorite task was feeding and changing the water for the rescued pigs. In order to get the most out of this farm experience, you will need to ask questions. Unsure of a plant name? Ask. Wondering what’s up with the planting order? Ask! Farm hands are a veritable wealth of knowledge waiting to be tapped.
Working closely with farmers to produce fresh, organic, and sustainable food is profoundly grounding. It comes as no shock that rehabilitation programs across the world rely on this connection to give at-risk individuals a sense of purpose. Invest in your community and take the plunge into farming. Plus the skills you pick up volunteering can be shared with your own back yard. Share the work, share the wealth!
Going to volunteer this summer? Let us know what farm you choose in the comments!