Organic Farming in New Zealand

In the days to come we plan to post a short day by day of our working gig here at an organic farm on the north island and hopefully at our other random stops on the way. This first one will be a bit of a description as to where we are and what we’re doing as well as the mindset behind hitch hiking and living with someone for a few hours of work per day.

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Eric and Nancy’s Earthen House. The central element of the property is completely off the grid and uses solar for electricity and heating.

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“Charles’ Place” AKA as our 300sqft home for 4 weeks!

Where are we: we’re staying at a multi-family organic farm 5mi from the town of Thames on the Coromandel peninsula of the North Island. We sleep in a 300sqft cabin that is very smiliar to what you would expect at a camp. We had the option to stay in the host’s house but the privacy of our own building was a nice incentive. The farm is about 10 acres with three families staying on it, one older couple that own the property and two younger families (late thirties) that basically do a modern day version of share cropping. Coming into it we didn’t know if we should suspect crazy hippy communal love cult or super religious bible thumping amish folks but it is quite to the contrary. It’s quite simple and each family has two days a week of garden/work duties and they all pitch in when work needs to be done. The land is comprised of a large raised bed garden system with beds that are cycled through as the year progresses. They also have a dairy cow pasture and a food cow pasture which between those and the garden they consume the majority of the land. Also on the land is an orchard which is primarily citrus based with many mandarin trees, a worm farm/compost area, several green houses, a couple barns/storage sheds, a duck pond and of course yards/living spaces for the families.

What we do: As per the agreement for “wwoofing”, we are required to do 24hrs of work per week in exchange for room and board. Meals are free and so are the standard requirements of living such as laundry and showers. We try to work more than four hours a day in order to try to bank hours so that we can travel the peninsula and see the area. Our work is basically grunt work as we are the privates when it comes to the farming team. We do a lot of weeding, mulching and digging in the dirt but they also teach us quite a bit as we go, especially when it comes to doing organic farming. Much of the work is done without tractors or machinery whenever possible so we are well acquainted with hand tools.

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The “summer beds” that we have been working on. This is about half of the garden area.

Our first full day at the farm we learned the routine of a working day: wake up at 7am, be downstairs for breakfast by 7:15. Eat the morning meal, wash dishes by hand (a dishwasher takes up too much electricity) and be ready to work by 8. Work for 2.5 hours, then return inside for ‘smoker’ which is the morning tea and snack. At 11:30 we return outside for usually a second task until lunch at 1pm. This is the end of the work day for us wwoofers having completed our four hours. If we choose to work a longer day we’ll do another job for a few hours, or if not we hang out, go for a hike, read, nap or write blog posts. Next comes supper, the clean-up, tea, and bed around 10!

What isWwoofing: Willing Workers On Organic Farm. Entering somebody’s home as a wwoofer is part of a verbal contract to complete 4-6 hours of work, 5-6 days per week, in exchange for room and board while getting to meet some of the locals and learn about a different way of life. If a family would like to bring in tourists but they do not have an organic farm, they are known as a Cultural Exchange Hosts with the same contract. Most hosts will allow the tourist to accumulate hours for a later day off.

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