WWOOF University – Part 1: My story

Food had always been an essential part of my life. I come from a typical middle-class family who nevertheless taught me the importance of consuming fresh veggies as opposed to basing one’s diet on processed foods, my mom has always shared her passion for cooking and good food with everyone, and my grandpa retired as… a full-time farmer and hunter (and at 88 years old, he’s still going at it).

That being said, like most kids who’re lucky enough to go to college, I moved out to the city and became an adult with cities almost being the primary identity that defined me as a person. After graduating in majors and minors that I convinced myself were what I was interested in, I got jobs, convincing myself I was interested in them too, and life went on.

The one advantage of living in a city though is that I was exposed to lots of different foods, and access to food never was an issue.

After moving to Toronto, ON for work, trips to the St Lawrence Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings became a ritual, and as I was becoming more and more depressed by the so-coveted office life/stable job thing, going to the farmers’ market became the only pleasure and activity I would look forward too. Although I was trying to save money for future life projects (which at this point I still didn’t know what they would be), having a regular paycheck helped not feeling bad about spending big bucks for local veggies, fruits, and items I could otherwise get at regular grocery stores. I remember being so happy to find my favorite market stands every weekend, familiar faces that didn’t know my existence, familiar products I rushed towards, learning that if a stand has kiwis and strawberries all year, it may not be the kind of market stand you want to go to, etc…

Cooking with things I had biked, learned and discussed about, and knew who grew it, made me realize how much more pleasure I derived from knowing where my food came from. At this point in my life, I wasn’t aware of this yet, but it is the connection we have with land, people, veggies, and animals that make our experience with food whole.

A year later, I quit this job and promotion I had been expecting for so long, and went through downsizing. No more rent, no more belongings except a few clothes and a van with which I started the first leg of my North American journey.

A year later, I got a job working in marketing for a kayaking company in Montreal. The job was easy, and after travelling across Canada for a full year, my sedentary brain was happy to go back ‘home’ for a little bit, especially as below-zero temperatures (in both Fahrenheit and Celsius) were settling in.

I was back to an office job for a few months, but this time, I knew I’d be leaving with the van at the end of the next year, and was ready to find my favorite Montréal markets. Every Friday after work and Sunday morning, I started having this routine of going to the Marché Jean-Talon, Canada’s most popular farmer’s market, and which, as opposed to Toronto’s St Lawrence Market, is opened seven days a week all day.

Life being less expensive in Montreal, I could explore even more the connection I had with food, trying new things, cooking almost everyday very advanced recipes or simple dishes that involved local goods… It was again this experience and connection with what I ate that made me happy. I’m not scared to say, this was what saved me from being miserable at work, where I was stuck at a desk all day, enduring the overwhelmingly depressing atmosphere created by the conventional way most people envision their life and jobs, and overhearing the disheartening conversations of coworkers whose only pleasures lay in the consumption of food and items that come from the most horrible habits with the most horrible consequences for our land, people, and animals…

As my date of expiration with this company was approaching, I also realized my connection to food only through consuming “the right way” wasn’t enough. I needed more. I also realized travelling with my van shouldn’t be an end in itself. It should be about something else too. Something more meaningful.

I wanted to learn. I wanted to grow. I wanted to live.

And this is when WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and farming came into my life.


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