A Global Adventure in Organic Farming
Local Couple Joins Sustainable Agriculture Movement
Emily Hill and Jason Hehlo
Hehlo, 43, had been working in project management and energy engineering for various high tech companies in central Massachusetts, and Hill, 33, a dental hygienist, felt they needed more in this life to provide a sense of personal happiness and fulfillment and yearned for new perspectives. Inspired by their shared commitment to healthy living and healthy eating, and more recently, their increasing interest in acquiring a deeper set of skills and learning about the best ways to grow food naturally, they decided in July 2015 to work with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).
“We wanted to stop being victims of a food system that wasn’t looking out for our health and seemed to only be interested in mass producing for profit,” says Hehlo. “The costs of over processed foods appear to be less at the register, but realizing the ‘true costs’ after potential malnutrition and avoidable medical costs now and later in life, we decided to take a proactive role in producing our own food.”
WWOOF was started in 1971 and there are now an estimated 100,000 WWOOFers working with more than 15,000 hosts in 105 countries. The nonprofit helps people interested in organic farming to research and then interview with various prospective farms before committing to a program of travel. The farms typically offer a volunteer work exchange: 25 hours a week for a place to stay and a plentitude of fresh organic farm foods.
It took the couple nine months to plan the details of a complicated trip and a brand new lifestyle, which included disengaging from the security of the 9 to 5 world of paychecks and corporate subsistence, and selling the house, three vehicles and many of their personal belongings. With everything finally in place, in March 2016, Hehlo and Hill began their unusual adventure. The first work locations were Greenleaf Farm and Olana Organic Farm on the islands of Maui and Kauai, in Hawaii, where they stayed for six months. The next stop was Baldrock Bungalow Farm and Thornleigh Farm on the north island of New Zealand.
Hill and Hehlo continue to broaden their education in organic farming and have deepened their commitment to working on the sustainable agriculture movement which is gaining momentum worldwide. According to writer Jon Latham, “Food movements are rapidly growing across the world. In the U.S. alone, there have been surges of interest in heirloom seeds, in craft beers, in traditional bread and baking, in city garden plots, in organic food and in opposition to GMOs.”
On a practical level, the couple has honed their skills in areas such as mulching, fruit and vegetable harvesting, poultry care, composting, landscaping, bed clearing, tray seed planting, bed planting and many other areas. “We’ve learned that we made the right decision and currently have no immediate plans to go back to our past work lives. Our skills and knowledge in organic farming continue to grow,” says Hehlo.
“Through the power of intention, good things present themselves,” notes Hill. “Prior to the journey, life was an endless cycle of just going through the motions. Now, with every day so unique and different, it’s truly up to us to create the future.” Finding the courage to move toward their dreams, Hill and Hehlo are now at the forefront of an exciting new life, while at the same time making a contribution to a critical planetary need.
Tom Valovic is a writer, editor and futurist. He is the author of Digital Mythologies which discusses the relationship between spirituality, technology and science. Valovic also co-founded the Emergence Project, a nonprofit that researched indigenous traditions associated with the Great Turning. He can be reached at JazzBird@outlook.com.