The Rambling Crafter; WWOOF Hawaii

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The Rambling Crafter series is back and this time I’m talking about my experience with WOOFF Hawaii back in January, 2008.  For those of you loyal readers, you may remember that I recently eluded to this trip in my DIY Dress Redo post earlier this month.

What is WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)?

The mission of WWOOF is to help educate the world about how to live sustainably and organically within a community of like-minded individuals.

WWOOF is a way to broaden your education and practical experience, learn about organic gardening and farming, and meet new people.  It is also a great way to travel in Hawaii on 5 main Islands at over 200 farm hosts (and a vast array of different places). You help 4-6 hours a day, 5 – 5 1/2 days per week and receive accommodations, meals and a very interesting experience.

WWOOF Aims*

  • to get firsthand experience of organic farming & gardening and to lend a helping hand wherever needed
  • to get into the countryside of Hawaii and Hawaiian culture.
  • to help the organic movement, which is often labour intensive and does not rely on artificial fertilizers & pesticides.
  • to make contact with other people in the organic movement.
  • to have a wonderful enriching experience.
  • to enable people from all over the world to have a cultural exchange.

*Taken directly from the WWOOF Hawai’i website.

During the process of researching WWOOF we learned that it is a program for all levels of experience.  We had no experience at all with farming or even gardening.  While some farms do require prior experience for working on their farms, others don’t require any, so it was just a matter of contacting those farms and feeling out which one we thought we’d like to work with, and which ones could accommodate our schedule for when we could travel.

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We eventually found Josanna’s Garden in Kapoho on the Big Island.

Garden is a good name for this place, as it is only about 3 acres.  Though small in size, it produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including; lilikoi (passion fruit), papaya, bananas (silk fig, Mexican apple, lady finger, ice cream), avocado, ruby red grapefruit, sweet white grapefruit, pommelo, breadfruit, Mountain apples, star apples, meyers lemons, bumpy lemons, sour sop, rombuton, navel oranges, rollinia, tangerines, tahitian limes, guava, egg fruit, mamey sapote, coconuts, french green beans, yellow ginger, turmeric, white or greater galangal, red galangal, starfruit, jackfruit, and more!!

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Breadfruit (above) looks prickily on the outside, but is actually very squishy and delicate.  To harvest it, one person cuts the stem from the tree with a saw attached to a very long stick while two other people wait below with a stretched out bed sheet.  The bed sheet cushions it’s fall and prevents it from splaterring on the ground.  The conssistancy of this fruit is like pudding.

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While most of the produced grown on Josanna’s Garden was available for sale only at the farms’ small road-side stand (below), the various types of ginger were shipped to the other Hawaiian islands, and maybe even the main land.

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Here’s a good view of the farm from a gently sloped field of freshly planted galangal.

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And here is another small plot of ginger that was recently weeded.  Though galangal takes about 13 weeks to mature, the farm has many small plots of it  that are planted at different time so that it may be harvested year round.  Though our stay on the farm was just three weeks we were able to participate in each stage of galangal production; planting, maintaining (weeding/mulching/fertilizing with organic compost), and harvesting.

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Below, Jon stands in front of large piles of cut veggitation which will be used in composting.  Piles of compost that are farther along can be seen in the distance next to the banana plants.  Ironically, Jon’s shirt says, “I dig dirt.”  Composting is a large and important part of organic farming.

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In addition to the ginger and many exotic fruits sold by the farm, there was also a plot of land reserved for growing vegetables specifically for the WWOOF volunteers.   Below is the fenced in WWOOF garden and its handmade sign.

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When you become a WWOOFer and volunteer on a farm you are given accommodations by your hosts.  These accommodations vary from farm to farm.  Most hosts provide a spare bedroom, some a separate cabin, some their RV or a trailer/camper, while some can only offer tenting sites.  In the case of Josanna’s Garden, each volunteer or volunteer couple, were given a separate cabin.  Some of these cabins were newer and nicer, while others were a bit more shabby.  The basic rule at this farm was that new volunteers were given whatever space was available at the time they arrived and as volunteers left you could switch if you’d like, so if you stay for a long time you could pretty much get the pick of where you want to stay.  Below is the room that Jon and I shared.  Though you can’t really tell from this picture, it is actually connected to the barn, but since it has its own entrance felt very much like a separate cabin.  Most of the cabins on Josanna’s Garden were not wired for electricity (which was solar-powered), but since our room connected with the barn we did actually have a light bulb which was pretty nice.

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Directly to the right of our door was an over hang that protected an array of hand tools used daily by us volunteers.

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This volunteer had been on the farm for a long time when we arrived and didn’t have any plans of when he would be leaving so he asked the hosts if they would allow him to build himself a tree house. He started the project right around the time we arrived and as you can see from the picture below he got pretty far along after three weeks.
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We traveled very light for our trip so everyday after work we would take off our work cloths and hang them up in the porch area of our room.  We didn’t bother to wash them while we were there because it was so humid that they wouldn’t have dried in time for us to wear them again.  Now that I look back on the experience, it was a good preparation in some ways to the way we would live in Peace Corps.  DSCN6251.JPG

It wasn’t all work on Hawaii either.  We did get two days off a week which we used to explore as much as possible.  This was a bit difficult because the farm was a bit secluded and away from any town.  There was a free public bus that we utilized a few times, but in this part of the country hitch hiking is still common and for the most part safe (though I would never recommend hitch hiking alone), which is how we usually got around.  One time we hitched all the way to Hilo and back (60 mile round trip).  We never just stood at corners waiting for a ride, but would instead walk along the busy highway with our thumbs out.  Below is a picture of me walking along with my new ukulele in hand and thumb out.

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The farm is located near the eastern coast of the Big Island, where jagged lava rocks meet the ocean and create tide pools.

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At the very end of our trip we rented a car for a couple of days so that we could see more of the Big Island, including Volcano National Park.  It was very awesome to see active volcano’s, though there weren’t any lava flows while we were there.  We learned that volcano’s can be pretty toxic, and stinky to

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Though I haven’t talked about everything concerning our trip to Hawaii and our experience as WWOOF volunteers, I hope that this post has given you a better understanding of the WWOOF program.  If you have been wanting to learn more about organic farming I strongly encourage you to look into this program.  The WWOOF program in Hawaii is nice because you get to see Hawaii while you learn, but remember that WWOOF stands for world wide opportunities on organic farms, so if you can’t travel all the way to Hawaii there are other options.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The Rambling Crafter; WWOOF Hawaii

  1. You are just full of surprises Miss Emily! What a wonderful experience! 🙂 I have never b been to Hawaii, but from looking at your pictures it looks like an amazing place. Can’t say I have ever tried any of those exotic fruits either. How fun! Are there any plans of you going back?
    I am a big fan of gardening. We are planting an organic garden this year at my parents farm. (Saves on money and it’s healthier too!)

  2. It was a fun experience and I certainly recommend it. Though it would be nice to return to Hawaii to WWOOF again, we do not have plans to do so at this time. I’m glad to hear that you are planting an organic garden. I hope you are blessed with a bountiful harvest!

  3. Finally a blog on Wwoof Hawaii. 🙂 Was this the only farm you guys volunteered at? I’m really interested in learning more. I’m considering wwoofing on Kauai, but I’m having a hard time finding much info even on the wwoofhawaii website. Any tips would be so helpful.

    • hmm, good question. It seems like a lifetime ago when we wwoofed! I remember first learning about WWOOF in a book that I found in the Library called “The 100 Best Vacations to Enrich Your Life.” From there we found the WWOOF Hawaii website. You do have to become a member and pay the fee (I believe it was $20) to get the contact information of the individual farmers so that you may volunteer with them. Each farm has their own criteria for applying and who they will except based on your personal experience as well as availability. We chose the big island because we wanted to go someplace that wasn’t very touristy. There are also A LOT of WWOOF farms there. And we applied to MANY different farms. I don’t remember how many, but only a fraction of the farm owners even responded to our request to volunteer. Just be patient, persistent, eager to learn and work, and respectful to your potential hosts. Let me know if you have any more specific questions. I hope that this was helpful.

  4. Seachel

    Hi there,

    I am going to be WWOOFing on josannas farm at the end of this month. I heard that the farm isn’t the best just recently and that the owners are hard to get along with and manipulative. How do you feel about this? What was your experience like there with the owners of the farm? Thanks!

    • Well, it was seven years ago now that I WWOOFed there and I was only there for three weeks. But I do not recall having many interactions with the owners of the farm actually, and the interactions that I did have were neither awesome nor terrible. Mostly, I worked with the other volunteers and there was a “supervisor” if you’d want to call him that, but he wasn’t the owner and was a pretty nice guy. Hopefully everything will go well for you, but if you are worried about it, perhaps you should have a back-up plan just in case.

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