Americans have a complex love-hate relationship with food. We love to eat large varieties and larger servings of food at each level of the discarded food pyramid. But we hate to know where our food comes from– the farm that grew our hamburger, the country that exports our trail mix, the machine pumping the pesticides in our lettuce. Books such as Eating Animals, Fast Food Nation, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma among others have highlighted this unhealthy relationship between the consumer and producer in today’s food economy.
What would it be like to go back, travel in time before the reality of wide scale meat recalls, McDonald’s global expansion, and increasing ignorance of the source of our daily meals? Can we return to simple agricultural living? I wanted to know. On Monday, I will travel south to New Jersey to work for two weeks on a 5-acre sustainable organic farm, eating the food I helped to grow and feed.
Hard Cider Homestead is part of WWOOF or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organization that partners willing volunteers with organic farms across the world. In exchange for working in the fields, tending to the animals and assisting with general maintenance, these volunteers receive food and lodging as well as the experience of living off the land. WWOOF is rebuilding the damaged relationship between food production and human consumption one farm at a time.
I found Hard Cider Homestead through my university’s job listings and connected with the corresponding Bucknell alumna. Janelle and her husband Matt explained the workings of the farm and expectations they had of a new volunteer. After a few e-mail exchanges, I was scheduled and ready to go.
Unlike the times before cash crops and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), I will have access to my cell phone and Wi-Fi. I have packed some old sneakers, a couple of t-shirts and my computer with the hope that I will gain a new found appreciation for agriculture life. And while Farmer Kate may not be my life calling, I look forward to the moment when I can look outside and know exactly where my dinner came from.