daufuskie island farm

WWOOFers on Daufuskie Island

Walk into the house of Daufuskie Community Farm‘s general manager and you’ll see an unlikely sight.  77 year-old Pat Beichler shares her home with a horde of farm volunteers called “WWOOFers”.  WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organization that pairs willing volunteers with organic farms all over the United States.  WWOOFers (farm volunteers) usually work 20-30 hours a week in exchange for food and housing provided by the host farm.  It’s a way to travel, learn about sustainability, and meet interesting people without the logistical & financial concerns of housing and food.  You simply work to live.

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Beichler’s home

Pat built her house 18 years ago (at the age of 60) about a half-mile down the road from the farm.  A couple of years ago she decided to move out of her self-built home and into a little shed in the backyard.  She liked the privacy of living away from the bustling house, and decided that WWOOFers could stay in her house instead.

For a downsized experience, WWOOFers have the option to stay in the “gypsy caravan” which is located on the farm.  Dan and Brian (pictured below) called the gypsy caravan home during their month-long stay on the island.

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The Gypsy Caravan

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Brian shows off the orchard’s ground cover, which includes delicious watermelons!

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Dan prepares Sursy the goat for milking

 

Some WWOOFers bring their home with them.  Matt and Anna Clark barged over their cargo-trailer-turned-tiny-home earlier this fall, and expect to stay until March 2017.  They use the animal pasture as their front lawn, and enjoy the company of geese and goats as neighbors.

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The Clarks and their nosey neighbors

WWOOFing is for everybody; both old and young.  18-year old Farley Hammond, Daufuskie WWOOFer, explains why this is a special way to live:

I love WWOOFing because it expands your horizons in a way that no other form of travel can. Staying in a big city, taking guided tours, and enjoying a fancy hotel is one thing; but meeting the people and animals that support the local community, and having your own hand in cultivating both physical and metaphorical growth, is another. I chose to WWOOF because I wanted to choose a more raw, involved, and radically different experience from daily life.

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Farley brushes Oreo, a farm-favorite goat

Of course, everybody loves getting to know the friendly goats on the farm, especially the babies!  This year the kids needed more care than ever.  Two young goats broke their legs and needed daily attention and care.  A pair of sisters lost their mother and had to be bottle-fed throughout their upbringing.  This is usually the WWOOFers’ favorite aspect of the job!

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Overall, the WWOOFers bring some much-needed young energy to the farm and to the island in general.  They mill lumber, construct buildings, design and implement permaculture landscape, muck stalls, feed the animals, pull up weeds, and more.

WWOOFer Gena helps finish up some landscaping in the orchard

WWOOFer Gena helps finish up some landscaping in the orchard

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Patrick begins building a new chicken coop

 

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Milling lumber is one way WWOOFers use their energy to improve the farm

What’s so great about WWOOFing specifically at Daufuskie Community Farm? Courtney, a New York office worker turned WWOOFer, explains her experience:

On Daufuskie, everybody knows everybody and the whole island greets each other with a smile. Doors are left unlocked, bartering and work / trade is a real form of currency, and the residents all have a unique and friendly disposition to both local islanders and visiting tourists. I’ve never before encountered such hospitality from strangers.

Courtney and Junebug

Courtney and Junebug

Courtney, who grew up in the suburbs of New York, was getting tired of her 9-5 office life and turned to WWOOFing as a way out. “I’d always been infatuated with agriculture and farming but never had the opportunity to immerse myself,” she says.  Courtney is not alone; many WWOOFers at the community farm have left their financially-secure career life to explore a new way of living.

“In our culture it is the norm to work forty-plus hours a week at a job you are not necessarily passionate about”, one WWOOFer says. “You then use your paycheck to buy food that has been shipped from all over the country.  This lifestyle doesn’t make sense to me.”  In the WWOOFing world,  you put in physical work to help create the food and goods you need to survive.  Plenty of WWOOFers take side jobs during their stay, and they end up leaving more financially secure than when they came.

More importantly, though, WWOOFers leave with a greater understanding of their role within the world’s ecosystem.  WWOOFing is growing in popularity every year, and some hope this reflects a global mindshift in which we become connected to the food systems that sustain us.

Daufuskie Island Community Farm

written by Renee Harding

Pat Beichler started the Daufuskie Island Community Farm (DICF) 7 years ago on “a dream and a dollar”.  The farm now houses over 20 Nubian goats which provide delicious milk for the volunteers, some of which is made into yogurt and cheese.  A garden and an orchard grow organic fruits and veggies.  Every morning, eggs from free-ranging chickens are collected and taken home by community members.  Many other animals live at the farm, each with their own purpose and personality.  DICF is completely volunteer-ran, and locals may share in the bounty by purchasing a farm membership.

When the 9-acre land was leased in 2010, the farm volunteers certainly had their work cut out for them.  In order to convert the heavily forested landscape into farmable land, the entire area had to be clear-cut.  Operating under the principles of self-sustainability and local harvesting, the farm used an on-site saw mill to convert these trees into fences and buildings.

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The Goat Barn, the first building established on DICF

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“Poulet Chalet”, one of the three chicken houses

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The saw mill continues to be used on DICF

Anyone who has taken a stroll through DICF has probably enjoyed the company of some unlikely walking partners – the goats.  These free-ranging Nubian goats are surprisingly social; they’ll follow visitors around the farm waiting for a free handout.  On hotter afternoons, you will find them lounging in the dirt, kicking the occasional fly off.  Volunteers offer the goats organic food and a lot of love, and in return receive fresh goat’s milk every morning.

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Each goat has his or her distinct personality, and many of Daufuskie’s locals have formed bonds with them.  The baby goats are especially popular – in May and June of this year the farm welcomed 14 new goats into the world!  Visitors flocked to the farm to take a peek at the kids.  Goats can be “sponsored” by anyone in the community; the sponsor pays a quarterly fee for the goat’s food and gets to name the kid.

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the first two kids born this year, “Mo” and “Allie Lou”

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Baby goats will climb on just about anything, so be careful where you crouch!

The farm is also home to two Jersey cows; Bagel and Muffin.  They’ve been out of commission for a bit, but will be bred soon.  Farm volunteers are getting excited to have delicious cow milk again!

Muffin

Muffin

Bagel

Bagel

Ducks, chickens, geese, and guinea fowl also call the farm home.  The ducks and geese provide eggs and eat pesky insects that bother other farm animals (and volunteers!).  Guinea fowl especially love to eat ticks, so their contribution is much appreciated.

DICF's gaggle of geese

DICF’s gaggle of geese

Guinea fowl are a favorite for visitors

Guinea fowl

 

The garden at DICF houses a wide variety of vegetables and herbs such as collard greens, okra, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, corn, rosemary, lavender, basil, sage, thyme, peppermint, and parsley.  Extra help in the garden is always welcome; fighting off weeds and cutting back bolting plants are ongoing battles.  Large blackberry and blueberry patches toward the back of the garden offer a delightful treat for passerbys.

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DICF’s garden-to-be (2010)

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today’s garden has over 20 beds, with more to come

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The farm’s orchard has come an impressively long way in one year.  Once an empty landscape, the orchard is now covered in trees that produce apples, plums, peaches, figs, and pomegranates.  Blueberry bushes are dotted throughout, and the ground is covered in edible plants such as squash, watermelons, and cantaloupes.  Keeping these plants sufficiently watered was one of the biggest issues for the orchard, so large swales were dug across to help establish a water table.  Planting a lush ground cover also helped retain water by diminishing evaporation.  Conservation of water is key on this farm!

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the orchard at its beginning

watermelon serves as part of the orchard's ground cover

Watermelon serves as part of the orchard’s ground cover

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Pomegranates are one of the many fruits produced in DICF’s orchard

 

The largest motivation for creating the Daufuskie Island Community Farm lies in the title itself: “community”.  Pat Beichler and other key players wanted to foster a sense of togetherness on Daufuskie Island, connecting folks toward a common goal.  It continues on that thread to this day, with volunteers from all over the island coming together to support the farm.  The main goal is simple: to provide the island with local organic food.  To reach that goal, the farm needs more help in the form of donations and volunteers.  If you are interested in volunteering at the Daufuskie Island Community Farm, contact Pat Beichler at (843)842-8999 or email at bowwow@hargray.com.  To donate, visit the farm’s website.