So the WWOOFing trial is over.
**2015 Update: the farm this blog post is about was cancelled in 2015. This blog was written in 2012. There is general information here in this blog you may find interesting and helpful if you are considering WOOFING anywhere in Argentina**
Ben and I had our reasons for WWOOFing in Argentina. We are both interested in organic foods and cultivation, as well as picking up new skills that we can potentially use in the future. Also interesting us was the chance to break out of the travel routine, visit a remote location where we wouldn´t normally visit, and have some structure to our days. Lastly, I’ll must admit that we needed to save some money on the trip as well.
We chose this farm to WWOOF on because, well, they were the only ones who said yes. We put out 15 applications, and heard back from 5 farms. This was the general experience of the other WWOOFers at the farm as well. It seems that the WWOOF farms in Argentina are not that great at returning your request.
Now, the pros of our experience:
- Vegetables, vegetables all around. Eat your veggies was not an issue while on the farm. Ben and I quickly learned that when living on a farm, you eat what´s in season. And tomatoes and summer squash was what was in season. We were introduced to a dozen different ways of cooking these vegetables: stew, baked with cheese and eggs, in polenta, in pasta, you name it!
- location, location, location. The farm is nestled right against the Sierras Comechingos. Even though it was right next to a ritzy resort/hotel, we felt like we were in the country. The farm provided a great way to get to know the small town of La Paz and the mountains, both of which we enjoyed a lot.
- The Tea house. The farm was right around the corner from the cutest teahouse, owned by a British couple who have been in Argentina for 45 years. Here is where we got all the gossip of the town and heard the most amazing stories from their personal life. The most incredible was their experience during the Falklands war, where the British were more hostile to them than the Argentines.
- We saved a lot of money. This was probably the cheapest I´ve lived since leaving my parents´ house. I made it through 26 days on 600 pesos, that´s about 150 dollars. Big win!
- Met people from all over the world. Ireland, Czech, France, Italy, Chicago, Switzerland and Israel. Granted, we could have gotten this experience in a hostel, but we were able to spend quality time with these people over meals and work.
- The experience was great for learning Spanish. I´m still terrible at it, but the farm made me actually use Spanish, rather than depend on Ben for a translator. This was frustrating for me at times, but in the end worth it. We also taught the 18 year old son of the farm family some English, and explained what an Idaho accent was. “A bear walked into a bar and ordered a beer” is pronounced “A baer walked into a baarr and ordered a berr.” Fun!
Ok, now for the cons:
- The experience was not a learning exchange. WWOOF, in my understanding is about an exchange. The volunteer works on the farm and in exchange, the farm provides food, shelter, and a venue to learn about organic farming. We worked, 5 hours a day and in exchange got breakfast, a big lunch and a place to pitch our tent. We also had the use of the bathroom and kitchen as we liked. The farm did not take advantage of Ben’s culinary knowlege, and he worked in the field while other women cooked the lunch. There was no learning going on on our end either. We didn´t learn anything new about growing organic food, making perfumes, or farming which brings me to my second con:
- The farm was actually not a farm. Well, they had a vegetable garden with tomatoes, squash, onions, garlic, some herbs and eggplant. They had chickens, which were too old to produce many eggs, lavender, and some fruit trees. The biggest concern of the man in charge seemed to be “La Casita” which was the tourist house on the property. We spent our time landscaping and weeding the flower beds. Only once did we do any actual planting.
- The people. Ok, I mentioned this as a pro, but it never occurs to you that you´ll run into people you don´t like while travelling abroad. Well, we did, and when you work, eat, play and live with the same people, you´re bound to find something annoying about someone. Drama happened (not between Ben and myself or with either of us and any other WWOOFers thank goodness), awkward moments happen, and things sometimes get weird. Ben and I were able to escape it though by getting off the farm every afternoon.
So, would I recommend WWOOFing Argentina to someone else? In short, yes. But I would warn them to be prepared for a farm that´s not all that organic by USA definitions. I´d advise them to be prepared for limited instruction, and limited learning. My experience, however, will not be the same as your experience. WWOOF Argentina is a hell of an opportunity and you should try everything once. You get to meet and live with real Argentines, eat fresh food and experience something you cannot experience anywhere else in the world.