Salut tout le monde! I am currently writing this on the French Riviera (or as it’s known in French, Côte d'Azur). Why am I residing in one of the most beautiful places in the world? I have decided to take part in a food sustainability program called the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF.
WWOOF is a service that links farmers with people who are interested in learning about organic farming. These people are called WWOOFers and are given food and accommodation in exchange for their assistance in the farm. Organic farms do not use pesticides, irradiation, nor chemical fertilizers, and only food grown according to the season is consumed by the farming family and sold in the market.
Alors, why take two and a half months traveling in the beautiful south of France, living with local French farmers, participating in their lifestyle, and, of course, eating wholesome and healthy organic food? The main reason is to practice my French! I am pursuing a bilingual university degree which requires me to take French courses and become fluent in this language. Unlike reading and writing, speaking and understanding French is more difficult for me. I have been in France for three weeks, and I notice I have an improved vocabulary and a higher overall understanding of the language.
The first farm in which I am currently located and has helped improve my French is owned by Anne and Pierre Magnani. Called Le Potager de Saquier Nice, the farm is situated in Saint-Isidore, 30 minutes from Nice. A variety of plants are grown on the land such as: herbs, strawberries, bananas, tomatoes, green beans, peas, romaine lettuce, green and white onions, kale, lemons, radishes, beets, and many more! Most of the tasks include weeding, tilling, and planting. Last Friday, I harvested fava beans, lettuce, peas, and radishes to prepare them for the farmers’ market which occurs every Saturday in downtown Nice. Farm work is more difficult than I expected. Even though it is a good physical workout it can take a toll on the body. The work tends to be physically repetitive and sometimes I stand in the same position for long periods. Working in the hot sun is strenuous therefore water, sunscreen and a hat are necessities!
However, the positive aspects of working in an organic farm far outweigh the negatives ones. There is a sense of personal accomplishment learning which peas are ready for harvest just by quickly glancing at them(hint: they need to be bulgy and as dark green as possible). They are a bit watery, semi-sweet, and more delicious raw than cooked! When I first started working at Anne and Pierre’s farm, I wasn’t able to distinguish the difference between the plants because they all looked the same to me! Now I’m more observant about details such as leaf texture or stem shape, and then coming to a conclusion about the variety of the plant. We have been continuously working with the tomato plants in order to prepare them for harvest in June. We have installed thin ropes from the ceiling of the greenhouse down to the plants. Afterwards we tied the plants around the rope so they can grow upwards instead of growing sideways and destroying the other plants. They still need some time before the seeds fully grow into tomatoes and become distinct from other plants. I was walking around the neighborhood a few days ago and I was proud I was able to distinguish a neighbor's tomato plants, even though the tomato seeds had not grown yet!
Living and working in the farm has given me the opportunity to distinguish the difference between food that is bought in the supermarket and food that is grown organically as the latter has a fresher and richer taste. What better way to end your meal than with a bowl of delicious strawberries freshly picked from the garden?
The article was originally written in English.
Illustration: National Geographic
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