With WWOOF I learned to
build and rebuild together
I arrived as a WWOOFer at Maurizios farm (Fattoria Gioia) 20 years ago, a bit by chance, trying to improve my Italian and to help on the farm. At the beginning life in the countryside seemed beautiful and romantic but not suitable for me, I loved traveling and going to the cinema in the city. Over time I learned to appreciate the silence, the seasons, the conviviality, the good food and so with Maurizio, who is now my husband, we have structured the activity of the farm with the production of goat cheese and honey for sale at local markets in addition to olive oil and meat for our own consumption. It was an immense joy to see our children Marta and Marco grow in this context as in olden times, sharing their daily life with the WWOOFers who brought us, along with their help, other ideas and other horizons. A beautiful story that could end here ... but ...
In recent years our balance has been put to the test by terrible calamities. In 2015, after a heavy snowfall, the road collapsed, it was the only access to the farm and we were left with no water for ourselves or for the animals. We were completely isolated, even from the rescue teams, but no public structure helped us to restore the road: for them, a small reality in an internal area like ours was only a cost and a burden. With a video that we circulated amongst friends, a solidarity campaign started to get the institutions to act. In the drama we became aware of our fragility and we promised ourselves not only to get out of the situation but to make this experience an opportunity for formation for all the farmers who, like us, live in fragile and isolated territories. Thanks to a Crowdfunding with Banca Etica and WWOOF Italy we organized a training course in naturalistic engineering aimed at the farming world and was an opportunity for everyone to learn how to prevent this kind of catastrophes and get out with their own strength.
Again in 2017 with snow, earthquake and landslide, we lived in isolation and a lot, a lot of FEAR, but also on this occasion we have confirmed the value and strength of networks such as WWOOF, GAS and other associations that have pulled us out of the mud, a little at a time. I learned to feel the closeness of those who, despite the physical distance, supported us because they believed in what we do. I learned that in our lost corner of Abruzzo, we are not alone.
Gracias, de còrazon Maria José
With WWOOF I learned to grow ancient cereals
Tired of the work and the sense of discomfort that I felt for some time, in 2014 I talked with my wife Annalisa about my desire to live in the countryside but at that point it seemed only an unattainable fantasy because we had no experience. So we decided to join WWOOF and in April of 2015 I left for my first trip.
I arrived at the Boschi del Castagno Valmorel Belluno and at the station I was picked up by Eugenio who runs the farm with Isabella, two fantastic people. The first thing I asked him was am I doing the right thing to leave everything and start this uncertain journey? I will never forget his answer: "I do not know if you are doing the right thing, I only know that I regret not having done it earlier".
The second trip was with Annalisa and our daughters. We found ourselves at the Icolao, a small farm run by Laura and Francesco who made us passionate about ancient cereals. Here I discovered for the first time spelt, the oldest cereal in the world, which to us ignorant citizens was completely unknown. I discovered (and still continue to learn ...) how to recognize the ears of various cereals, distinguish a ‘Senatore Cappelli’ from a ‘Gentil Rosso’, the milling techniques and in general the different ways of processing flour. I learned how to prepare the soil, how to sow following the tables according to the type of cereal, crop rotation and everything needed for cultivation. Even understanding when a grain is ready is not always easy, colour helps but this is not enough. So they taught me how to taste the grain: when it feels hard enough we start the threshing.
During WWOOFing we discovered a beautiful territory in Abruzzo where we could settle and were we are also lucky to have a nice network of hosts that supports us. Another important meeting was at Rucasa 1130 with Ciro and his family where we further enriched our knowledge on bread making and cereals. I understood the difference in yield and processing of the various flours, how to use the yeast and a technique of folding and dough that gives excellent results.
Soon we will begin to give life to our project in the realization of a small workshop with a mill and pasta factory where we can directly transform our grains.
I arrived in Italy thanks to the University of New Hampshire in the USA, which organizes some 2-3 month internships in Italy as part of the "Eco-gastronomy" training. After this experience I wanted to return for a longer period to a farm I knew and so I discovered WWOOF.
I shared all aspects of the art of living with sobriety in the countryside and I learned many self-production practices. For example, I understood the wheat cycle: it starts in the autumn with the sowing of a mixture of different varieties, then in summer the crop is brought to the mill. With the flour obtained I learned to make sourdough bread, pasta, desserts according to what we needed. The bran and the husks of the wheat instead went to the hens so that they gave us good eggs and a bit of meat when, alas, it was time to slaughter them.
In the vegetable garden it was exciting to follow each cycle from the birth of the seedlings in the seedbed heated by the hens, up to the harvest in the field of vegetables that went directly to the table or the fruit for the production of seeds for the following year. Right there in the garden I learned the importance of managing rainwater: with a pond as a reserve and a good mulch with the straw from our wheat, you can guarantee the water needs without using water from the communal network. From the energy point of view, the wood and solar panels helped us to not to depend on external supplies and I have experienced that it is much more fun to cut wood than to... pay the bills!
Talking of waste, I have to say that by reducing your purchases you produce very little waste: between the animals and composting everything ends up in the closed cycle of the farm without using trucks and landfill.
The secret to not buying? Eat what is there!
If you do not think so, you need to imagine what marvelous ravioli you can make with your own flour, vegetables from the garden and the ricotta from the neighbour ... In fact we often exchanged our surplus with other foods produced on farms around, for example milk and cheese. This is another important aspect of self-sufficiency for food sovereignty: networking with those who live like you, around you.
The summer period has just begun, a time when there are many of you WWOOFing and for this reason many hosts are fully booked. To find a solution that is right for you, if you have not found it yet, you can consult the summer list
When you search the complete list you will find the hosts that still have availability in the summer are marked with the icon of the sun.
We advise you to also check the time the hosts take to answer to avoid dispointment and to let hosts know promtly when you have to change plans to give them time to find substitute help.
I live in Pistoia and I recently graduated in Agricultural Sciences. WWOOF has always been for me the best way to integrate university studies, which were very much lacking in the practical aspects. In 2017 I wanted to experiment with straw bale construction: it is a healthy, insulating, breathing material with a low environmental impact ... in short, a waste that becomes a precious useful resource.
With WWOOF I learned
After graduating from the University of Bologna with a degree in Geometry, I was feeling out of my element and so, nearly by accident, I decided to explore the world of everyday life. I signed up for WWOOF, but it was winter, and many hosts don’t take WWOOFers during this period and so I ended up with the only host that would take me in, Mario at the Finocchio Verde farm.
From this unexpected beginning, a passion was born; I discovered that I liked spending time with animals, the work, the rhythm of this new life. For someone who fears the monotony of work, it was refreshing to taste every season and all of the different phases of production.
This multifunctionality, so common on small scale farms, was what WWOOF had to offer me, and so for two years I traveled around Italy, looking for farms that could offer me specific experiences and knowledge. I stayed in 5 different farms learning how to make seedlings at a plant nursery, salami, olive oil and bread.
During this experience I discovered that I was a farmer, and I started dreaming of my own place where I could put to use all that I had learned. And it just so happened that, in that moment, there was the possibility to rent a plot of land…
So together with my wife Stefania, we created from nothing our small goat herd, focusing on the production and sale of goat cheese. The best part is that we are not alone; in this small part of Liguria in addition to visits from WWOOFers, we are part of a small network of 5 WWOOF farms that help one another by exchanging goods as well as helping out.
And in the middle of this adventure, Gioele was born, who is already 2 years old!
The Global Launch of the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (2019-2028)
27-29 May, 2019
FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy
The U.N. General Assembly has officially declared 2019–2028 the Decade of Family Farming. Initially proposed in October 2017, the resolution passed with 104 co-sponsors and unanimous approval. The Decade aims to inspire the international community to generate a refreshed political commitment supporting family farmers and crafting pro-family farming policies.
The resolution acknowledges family farmers as key leaders in the pursuit of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically in “ensuring global food security, eradicating poverty, ending hunger, conserving biodiversity, achieving environmental sustainability, and helping to address migration.”
You can meet a girl that only after a week of knowing one another, your heart is opened by sharing secrets, and you feel as if you are her best friend chatting the night away telling secrets, sitting on the terrace.
You can find a WWOOFer like you, with whom you can decorate a Christmas tree and create a makeshift cake pan with a vegetable mill, cooking it in the fireplace and feeling like siblings.
You can find a mother that worries about you, concerned whether or not you are eating enough, who makes you sandwiches for the road, who calls you, who asks if you have arrived safely.
You can find people who make you feel as if you are at home, even when there isn’t hot water and there are mice who share a room with you, Those who make you feel as if it might be better to spend Christmas with them rather than your own relatives.
For all of these reasons, with WWOOF, I have learned that family is much larger than we ever thought.
Eelke was a WWOOFer here first 5 years ago. I asked him if he could clean out the rainwater tanks for the garden which were filling with earth as the water came from the ditches. He started and said ‘this is clay I will make you a pizza oven’! And he did! I learnt an enormous amount about alternative technology and permaculture from him and his wife Cora (who made a synergic garden for us) They are very special friends
Never say never, never say forever ...
After many years of enriching and demanding work in the field of Mag6, of which WWOOF Italia is a member, I felt that I needed a change and to start something new.
But where to start ? How to reinvent yourself after so many years? And so I began to walk between WWOOF hosts and arrived at Carpe Diem in Chiassaia di Loro Ciuffenna (AR).
Here I was able to get really close to goats and dairying: Niccolò and Chiara gave me confidence and opened up their home and ... their barn ;-) For two months I took the beautiful goats out to graze in the woods in that land which is still wild - the Pratomagno; Chiara taught me to recognize them, to call them by name, to try to understand them.
With Niccolò the barn was always perfect and the milk arrived in the dairy for transformation into cheese.
I fell in love with it all and I learned a lot: I find it alchemical the transformation of milk into the many forms that it can take: fresh cheese, tome, taleggio, ricotta, etc.
Since then I am still on my travels and I do not know when I will stop.