Updated: Oct 4
August 4, 2021 - September 21, 2021
There was so much excitement and pride from my family when I got admitted to Berkeley Law that I felt really guilty for changing plans: I decided to take a gap year. I was so caught up with the image that people had of me and the expectations that I had set for myself. I wanted an escape.
I desperately reached out to my professors and mentors for help. My sustainability professor told me about WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms). I watched a small handful of outdated Youtube videos from other WWOOFers and sifted through hundreds of farms in the U.S. before I stumbled upon the beautiful Farmhouse School in Illinois. It was too good to be true. One Facetime with Leslie, the owner of the farm, and I was making my way across the country to a farm in the far western suburb of Chicago.
In the beginning of my stay, I was still figuring out what I was going to do after the farm and interviewing for fellowships. Yes, I was this obsessed with being "productive" even during my gap year. BUT it was only a matter of weeks before I decided to extend my stay.
My mentor told me I was glowing and that was all I needed to hear.
This whole experience felt like a dream. Everyday, I'd wake up at the crack of dawn, pour myself a cup of hot water, sit outside in the backyard, journal and do yoga as the sun rose. We'd start the actual workday at 8 AM with the most ecstatic greetings from the goldies Rainey and Sunny, and debriefs at the pergola in the middle of the garden. I've actually never gardened much before, but gardening felt somewhat intuitive. Some days were long and physically exhausting, but at the end of the day, I loved this simple way of life away from the city. It was so different to only worry about the rainfall, the harvest, or the last time we fertilized the garden with worm tea (basically, from soaking worm poop in water!).
There was something interesting and new everyday. I saw fireflies for the very first time!! I even hid in the basement during a tornado for the first time! I can go on and on about cooking with fresh herbs, being on the other side of the table at the farmer's market, hosting farm-to-table dinners, and the abundant supply of raspberries (which is now my favorite fruit!). But, my favorite part of gardening was the diverse community it cultivated.
I changed my flight for the second time.
I would not have come across these gems in my life if it weren't for this somewhat spontaneous trip. I had the pleasure of getting to know some absolutely lovely people doing amazing things:
One of the MANY beautiful souls I met was Taffy, who literally does everything from working as a Chef to policy advising and much more. We bonded over our immigrant experiences, our faith, our passion for social justice, and our extensive projects of saving seeds, canning, and dehydrating vegetables to take back home. I can't wait to visit her farm one day and see all the ethnic crops she'd be growing.
I could not be more thankful that my first farm experience was with Leslie (the owner of Farmhouse School), who teaches people how to grow and cook real food. She is a real superwoman and such a patient teacher with a wealth of knowledge. Follow Farmhouse School on Instagram for live updates on the farm!
Jen was another WWOOFer at Farmhouse School who generously took me in her Chicago home for a city tour. She has such a brilliant mind and a big heart. Her vision is Bonus Room, an experiment in gift economics providing a gift-based cafe for caregivers. Before the full-time cafe is open, Jen will be holding events in her Airbnb. You can also see her updates and support her here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/bonusroom
Oh man, I don't even know where to begin with this one! Heather lived two houses down from the farm. I've never met someone more generous, loving, and radiant of Jesus! In addition to her three lovely daughters, she and her husband adopted two sweethearts from China and are raising a Christ-loving family in Illinois.
Last but definitely not least, this trip would not have been possible without WWOOF. I'm so grateful for this community, and for instilling in me a love for gardening, nature, and fresh herbs! I treasure all the memories I've made, the relationships I've built, and the person I've grown into. It makes me so happy to share about my WWOOF experience in hopes to inspire someone to take that leap of faith too! More pictures on my Instagram highlight, "farm"!
WWOOF-USA is offering $10 off membership registration or renewals with the code HMPROBAKES.
Feel free to reach out @h.m.pro for suggestions and advice on navigating WWOOF if/when you decide to take that journey or if you want to hear more about my adventures! I definitely have more stories to share!