Though my original plan for the summer was to visit four different organic farms, each for a two week stint, I have decided to return to the Moulin Ruel (home of the Blancarts) for an additional two weeks. The motivation is largely based on the type of work I have been doing for the past two weeks and the possible continuation of that work on the third farm.
Here at the Petit Ane Bleu, a large portion of my time and an even greater portion of the Bigliardi’s time is devoted to the entertainment of customers. Every aspect of the farm is in some way connected to the “client.” Donkeys carry the hiker’s packs; goats, sheep, and pigs create a farm-like atmosphere; vegetables are grown en masse for the hikers’ consumption; and Denis and Hind must constantly cater to the customers’ needs. Unfortunately for me, this means that I often work alone or with the other WWOOFers completing tasks (like raspberry picking, weeding, or repair jobs) that Denis and Hind do not have the time for, even if we do not really know why it must be done. It is an environment that does not really accomplish the spirit of the internship because it is difficult to learn about organic agriculture working alone.
While the system has left me frustrated at times, we must also look at the situation from the Bigliardi’s perspective to understand why it works that way; in short, they are a young couple, with children, who have to pay the bills. Yes, working by myself in a field does not really represent the spirit of exchange at the core of WWOOFing (which, by the way, means World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – www.wwoof.org), but it does help them make end’s meet.
Considering that the root of the less-than-ideal situation is the constant need to entertain customers, I have concluded that it is best to avoid any other farms that run a hostel or restaurant type business. Unfortunately, a hostel is exactly what the next farm does. My decision to return to the Blancarts, therefore, is rooted in the desire to avoid more customer service work that shies away from agricultural aspirations. Also, when I left the Blancart’s home, we had not finished the wood harvest or the construction of the goat house. If two more weeks means we could possibly finish one or both, I am more than content to return and lend a helping hand.
Thus, tomorrow I will spend the day returning to the home of Christine and Alain, hoping to both get the internship back on track and to make some progress on their projects. While the past two weeks have been informative, I expect the next two will provide many more lessons on consumerism, do-it-yourself projects, agriculture, and more.