Thursday, May 3, 2012

SOUL & ADVENTURE: Eva Goes Organic- Interview 2012 April (Part 2). A post about volunteering on organic farms.

Perec dog
- For our grandparents generation who lived in the villages of countryside-Hungary it was natural that the garden belonged to their living property where they grew their own vegetables, had fruit trees and backyard chicken. They even knew how to breed animals. Is the organic farm the resurrection of grandmas garden? In which aspect is it more than that?

- There is a lot of knowledge accumulated in traditional agriculture. My grandparents used do farming, they knew when and how vegetables and fruits should be harvested and stored, what nettle or peppermint can be used for, how to place the different types of vegetables next to each other on the fields and preferred animal manure for manuring. Many families made jam or pálinka together from the seasonal fruits, when they were killing pigs, it was always a big gathering and they knew how to utilize almost each parts of the animal. Organic farms are similar to this in respecting nature and conscious consumption. They accumulate this traditional knowledge and mix it with modern ideologies or/and technology. 

- Do organic farms have any sub types?

- Actually they only have sub types, there is not even two which would be completely similar. Some people choose this way of life for an ideological reason  and since the ideologies are different, also the farms are (e.g. preparing for the end of the world, praising the ancient Hungarian traditions, living in a commune, impossible to raise children in the city...). I kind of see their point, but can not agree with any of those completely.
Then there is also less ideology-driven places like local farmers, municipalities or complete villages being involved in organic farming, who do it as a form of agriculture. You can differentiate farms also based on their field of functioning: agriculture, livestock breeding and/or tourism. The level of comfort can differ quite much between the farms and also the background of the owners (some have business background, some come from farmer families).

Practical details of volunteering on an organic farm

- What was the process leading to your decision?

- I was kind of summarizing it in my first blog post on my blog ( ). For sure there was the intention to "find my place" in life, and I always liked (nowadays) alternative lifestyles. I have been interested in non-profit projects, youth-projects, environmental protection, local communities, different cultures, getting to know new people. When I bought my dog, I started to hang out quite much in nature and I had to discover that this pleases me much more than the urban way of living.
My decision might seem drastic and sudden, but I can see the road leading to it. I was always analyzing myself, sometimes even too much. Lately I had to admit that sometimes these philosophical realizations are not really the ones which bring us forward. First I only reacted different when I had to face some criticism and if I agreed with it, I changed my actions based on it, instead of only thinking about it. Being more a person of action instead of thoughts started to work for me, and I try to keep this line even if sometimes my environment might not understand my intentions at first sight.

- If anyone else want to take part in an adventure like this what is the essential equipment what you should take with you? Or is a bankcard with certain amount of money on it enough?

- My main goal is to experience how it feels to live on a minimal budget and see which things I will miss from my present life, where I have a good living standard.
The basics what I bring with me are: a light-weight tent, a good sleeping bag and a backpack. Usually volunteers can sleep at a shelter, but I would like to try also very puritan places where sometimes even the owners are staying in a tent. It is important to have comfortable and functional shoes with you, a pocket knife and flashlight can be of good use. Laundry soap, shower gel, shampoo etc.
A good hat for not getting sun burnt, seasonal clothes, some basic medication.
I was hesitating whether to take tech tools (notebook, e-book reader, phone) with me or not. Writing my blog was the main reason for finally deciding to do so.
You do not need to over prepare, because you are going to have the opportunity to buy or exchange things during the trip too. I have heard about people who took only one pair of bikinis/swimming shorts and a bankcard with them.

- What is your budget for the next year?

- I try to keep a low budget and optimize my travel costs in the first line. If I manage to organize the volunteering periods well, then I do not have to make longer breaks between them and pay a lot for staying in hostels or hotels. There are people who like to visit local sights when they volunteer, but of course if you do so, it raises the costs.
I expect to spend around maximum 100-120 EUR/month, but to be honest I did not make a detailed budget yet.

- Are they paying salary on the farms or do they offer "only" a place to sleep and couple of meals per day?

- As far as I know in the WWOOF-projects they offer the accommodation and meals, but the travel costs and the pocket money have to be covered by the volunteer.

- Are there any animals/tasks what you are afraid of?

- No, I am not afraid of any kind of animals/plants, or any kind of insects and I will be ok with doing any kind of job. I am rather a bit concerned how my body will bear the physical work after the nine to five office job, but it will be surely a good exercise. On the other hand during the El Camino I was already walking once 20-30 km a day, so I think my limits are quite flexible.

- What are the things you want to learn by all means?

- The topics which I really like and interest me are: growing herb plants, collecting herbs, beekeeping and the production of diary products. I would like to learn to horse ride too. Besides these the basics of permaculture, composting, the usage of alternative energy resources in and around ones house interest me. How to build a more nature friendly, but still cosy home. 

- What sort of music/books do you take with you?

- Doing the El Camino I know it from experience, that if you go on a longer backpacker-trip even light things can weight a lot when you have been on the road for a while. Because of this I do not bring any paper books with me, but I take my e book reader. I like all kind of books and music, I will take everything with me what fits to the device and inspires me. The news music and books recommended by the people who I meet during my trip will come to these.

- What are the organic values?

- Everything which supports life and nature in a sustainable way. My goal will be to establish an ecosystem consisting of soil, plants, animals and human beings which can function in harmony and a healthy circulation in the long run.
Examples for sustainability and organic farming are the protection of the local indigenous species, local production, exchanging goods. Establishing those kind of new methods and systems where the effects of one process are perfectly complementing an other process, and through this they create a creative, sustainable, and positive circulation (e.g. Aquaponics food production system)
I would say that indirectly also creativity and open mindedness are organic values, like accepting volunteers at our farm, who are going to live with our family for a while. 
You can live also in the city according to organic values, when you buy from local producers, are a conscious consumer, watch your energy consumption and ecological footprint, attending some eco groups activities, not to litter etc. These are nowadays fashionable, but in my opinion also important issues.

This interview is an intellectual property of Éva Jócsák and Mónika Csapó. All Rights Reserved, for any commercial use please  contact  us.

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