I’m Lindsay. Nice to meet you! I’m a senior at the University of Michigan and a new volunteer for Real Time Farms. I spent my whole life growing up in the heart of Chicago with very little experience in any kind of rural setting, so my interest in farming may seem a little out of place, or at least unexpected.
Growing up, I was always overweight, with very little concern for what was going in to my body and not much interest in physical activity or the outdoors. My parents always provided me with nutritious, home-cooked meals, but I took any chance I got to fill myself up with Cheetoh’s and Coke at the neighbor’s house. Going in to high school, I decided (with strong encouragement from the ‘rents) to go on WeightWatchers. After about a year of counting, very meticulously, every item I ate and every minute of exercise, I had lost a little over 50 pounds. It was during this year that I became very aware of how different foods affect my health and the way I feel. I had to learn how to get full without exceeding my daily “points,” so fruits and vegetables became the obvious choice much of the time.
Fast forward to college— After several years of learning and experiencing some of the things that a lucky young person might experience, I decided to head to Europe for a 6 week tour with my backpack and an excited, adventurous spirit. I had heard about WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) several times, although I can’t quite recall when, where, or from whom. For those who are unfamiliar with WWOOF, it is a website that links people to organic farms all over the world where they can work in exchange for room, board, and an incredible learning experience. Anyways, I decided that a good portion of my European adventure would include a 2-week stay on Ferme de Coution just outside a small French village called Desaignes. I had been slowly learning French for as long as I can remember, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to work on my language skills and to continue traveling comfortably on my college student budget.
While I did both those things, the main outcome of my WWOOFing experience was developing a passion for fresh, local produce and the “do it yourself” phenomenon. Each morning, I woke up early to eat a breakfast of freshly baked bread with jam made by Arlette (the owner of the farm) from the farm’s fruits. I would then work out my forearm muscles by milking the 8 goats by hand while feeding them and then lead them out to the open field, where they would spend their day freely roaming around. The rest of the day would be spent harvesting and weeding in the garden, overlooking a beautiful landscape of other farms and medieval style houses down the hill.
Arlette spent most of her days making jams and goat cheeses, and in the evening, we would cook dinner together almost entirely from ingredients that had been recently harvested right there. We could literally SEE where our food was coming from while we were eating it, and it was the freshest, most profoundly flavorful food I had ever eaten. The satisfaction derived from eating the vegetables I had pulled out of the ground that very day is indescribable. Plus, I’ve never slept so well in my life.
In my free time during those two weeks, I got to wander around the quaint village below and check out the other local producers in the area. The “Medieval Village” of Desaignes is a tight knit community of people who know and support each other. Everything bought and sold there, pretty much, is made there. Being from Chicago, I had never experienced such a uniquely independent place with so little input from the outside— and it worked! The profound sense of community in the town was obvious when walking around and seeing everybody say hi to everybody and stop at the booths in the market to find out what new cheeses or wines were available from their neighbor farms.
So, that’s my story, or at least part of it. Since my time on Ferme de Coution, my heart beats faster every time I come across a farmer’s market or a locally sourced restaurant. I couldn’t be happier to be working with Real Time Farms and working to link people to their fresh, local food sources and helping to strengthen communities across the nation. More from me to come!