A few weeks ago I met a guy from Ontario who asked if it would be possible to help out at the farm. Of course I said, “Yes.” He was wanting to continue our conversation about farming in the Yukon, and we were trying to talk while I was watching our booth at the Fireweed Market.

When he got to the farm, he helped with feeding the animals, and then we moved on into the garden. We did some weeding and some harvesting and then he asked if he could hill up some potatoes. This was a task that Al had been trying to complete among other jobs and hadn’t quite finished.

Then I harvested more vegetables while he pulled weeds and fed them out to the pigs and geese. And we talked farming. Farming is one of my favourite subjects, as I have always wanted be a farmer, even when I was young and growing up on a farm. It just made sense to grow my own food. And it makes sense to encourage those who are young and also want to farm. Some may have grown up on a farm like this helper had, but others want to learn about farming and feel one of the best ways to learn is to go help out on other people’s farms. It is almost like an informal apprenticeship.

There is a group of people who actively seek farms to help out on. Usually it is on organic farms where there is a lot of manual labour to do. But while weeding the garden or feeding the animals, they learn what life is like farming.

One organization that helps to facilitate these farm helpers is WWOOF Canada. WWOOF is an acronym for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. The farms are listed with what they grow, type of accommodation and their expectations. A potential WWOOF-er is able to contact the farm directly, to find out more information or make arrangements to go work on the farm.

Sometimes the WWOOF-er wants to stay in an area longer than planned, but the host farmer isn’t able to keep them on. By this time they would have met other farmers not listed on the WWOOF Canada website. So they have an opportunity to move to a new farm. This is how we met Jess.

Her timing was perfect. Al was not going to be on the farm as much as he had been and the harvest in the garden was more than I could handle alone. Jess’s skills are diverse. She helps with everything we do on the farm and likes to stay busy. Staying busy is something we can help her with, plus, we benefit more than just having an extra pair of hands around the farm. With someone new around the farm, we can break out of our usual routine. Whether it’s exploring our backyard or cooking up a new dish, change can be as good as a holiday.