Posted August 1, 2012
Ask Lia Pretecrum ’13 and Matt Miller ’14 what they did this summer and they’re bound to tell you about their time at Taft Hill Farm in West Townshend, Vermont where they worked for two weeks in July and learned about sustainable living and farming.
Taft Hill Farm is a member of the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) network that gives interested volunteers (short term and long term) an opportunity to acquire first-hand knowledge of the importance of incorporating sustainable practices into every day life.
“If a WWOOFer has an interest in the work being done at the farm or the location, they can contact the owners, who will supply room and board in exchange for a predetermined amount of work time,” Miller said. “Outside of the United States, WWOOF hosts can be found in nations as diverse as Norway, Pakistan, Russia, France, Portugal, Croatia, and Malta. Additionally, farms must be registered organic in order to join, and most have significant success in self-sustainability and rustic living. So when done right and above all, safely, it's a pretty great way to see the world, meet new people, and learn new things.”
At Taft Hill Farm, Pretecrum and Miller learned about animal husbandry, including organic means of raising poultry, lamb, and dairy cows. The duo was also given instruction in gardening and identifying wild mushrooms.
“We learned quite a bit about everything,” Miller said. “Our farm was part of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and there was a remarkable sense of community and camaraderie among local farmers, so in addition to the work done on our farm, we were able to assist locally as well.”
“I learned how to bake bread and scones, collect and clean chicken eggs and hay, feed an evil llama, identify which plants are weeds, run an ice cream and county store, clean up lots and lots of animal waste, collect wild mushrooms, blow glass, and many other typical farm chores,” Pretecrum said. “On a less literal sense, I learned the meaning of community by seeing how different people can work together and I learned how important it is to understand where food comes from and really question the way things are run in big cities and corporations.”
Miller also noted he and Pretecrum spent quite a bit of time haying.
“The hay we mowed, bailed, and stored is going to be used as animal feed for the winter, and our host told us that you can really see the organic process come full circle at that point,” Miller said. “The hay feeds the animals, who give the manure that grows vegetables, fruits, and more hay, which is then fed to the animals, who give manure, that grows vegetables, fruits, hay, etc., etc., year after year after year. So it was a great lesson in sustainability and just the logistics and theory behind maintaining such an operation.”
Taft Hill has a diverse amount of activity, from herb gardening, to animal raising, to maple-sugaring, to beekeeping and more.
“I would recommend this experience to every other GA upperclassman,” Pretecrum said. “It was not just about sustainable living. Working on that farm was so amazing because of the people that were there, and the animals. I learned something new from every single member of the family and other Wwoofers that were there. When I left Taft Hill Farm I felt like I was leaving a second family.”
CLICK HERE to read about GA’s sustainable design practices.