Christine and I have just recently returned from working on a WWOOFing farm out in Mendoza for a while and (and having limited to no access to Internet). It’s been a great experience, seeing how much work it takes to get the food out from little tiny seeds onto the table without any chemicals. The family ate mostly vegan (though sometimes we had eggs or milk, and our bread had both), so there was a lot of vegetable-eating going on. I was quite amazed at how much the mother did with what she had available. Maybe it was just returning to such healthy food and working hard for it that made it taste so good, but we had croquettes, soups, even just plain boiled vegetables that tasted like ambrosia some days. A minimum of spices were added (though I ate more salt than I can remember in a month due to all the sweating going on) and a lot of water was drunk. We did occasionally have the wonderful treat of fresh spices on the farm – curry plant, rosemary, mountain thyme, mint, basil, oregano, fennel. One of the simplest dishes we learned is one that we will definitely take with us – boiling foods (beets, potatoes, carrots) way down, dropping a little garlic and oil in, and using a blender to make a simple, astoundingly delicious sauce.
Working brought to the forefront just how much it takes to get these foods onto the table, especially without using chemicals. At least some of us were always weeding the whole month that Chris and I were there (tomatoes, the farm’s main crop, had been planted and needed to have nice clear land around it). I also cleared new land and weeded trees – young apple and walnut trees, to be exact. We also did small tasks around the farm, including a little harvesting – herbs and edible weeds for sale at the organic market in Mendoza, mulberries (moras) and sour cherries (guindas) for ourselves and for the market, leftover fava beans from the harvest we just missed. Sometimes we worked with other people working on the farm – chatting sometimes made the day go by so much faster – and sometimes we worked alone or lost in thought.
We did mud construction almost every night, building an almacen (store) that the produce grown can be eventually sold in. Throwing mud can be very fun and very satisfying after a long day, let me tell you. However, we were also reminded that farm work often isn’t fun and is quite often boring, repetitive, and frustrating. I guess that’s why it’s not a popular career choice.
The organization on the farm wasn’t the best, but we enjoyed the people that we worked with and the work itself and are quite happy that we did this. I feel quite safe in saying that we will be doing this again at some point in the future. I for one hope it’s during harvest season – planting and caring is fun, but seeing the fruits of labour (or simply nature’s wonderful bounty) has got to be a special feeling.
We’re back in Buenos Aires for a few weeks, which I’ll use to catch up on the food in Patagonia, then it’ll be back on the road and into new territory. Stay tuned and keep eating!