Young people head back to the land
by Barbara Annis
Clonlara high school grad Stef Weyand says the day her partner Aaron Jones got laid off "was a wonderful day for all of us!" Weyand, Jones, and their toddler, Quinn Xavier Zappa Jones, will soon leave their California home to volunteer on an organic farm through a program called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).
WWOOFing is very popular with young people, some of them college grads who can't find jobs or--as in Aaron Jones's case--lost them. Idealism also plays a role. Richard Andres of Tantre Farm in Chelsea says the volunteer farmers are looking for an "authentic" experience. Tantre and another Farmers' Market vendor, Frog Holler, are among at least twenty Michigan organic farms that use volunteers and interns. (Volunteers get only room and board for their efforts; interns also receive a small cash stipend.)
Jana Vandergoot, who interned at Frog Holler recently, says working with seedlings in the farm's greenhouse was a highlight. She's now helping with harvesting before she enters grad school this fall.
As for Weyand, she knows farming will be a "lot of hard work," but says she can hardly wait to be working "outside the realms of a money market."
[Originally published in August, 2009.]