For one month and a half, this summer, I went to Albertshofen, a small village in the middle of Germany, Franconia, to work in an organic horticulture farm.
When I was a kid, my mom never really had a taste for the outdoors. We grew up just outside of Paris. If you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ll know that it is not a place full of farms or huge fields or much green. We did have a garden at home, but with nothing much in it.
Coming from a big city (Paris, capital de la mode), I didn’t grow up with a taste of what living in the country side might be like, or smell like. Except this one day in primary school where they took us for a special day out in a farm (I remember that, for some of us, it was the first time seeing real cows, not on TV. How exciting !) There were cows, chickens, pigs, salads, plants, fruits ! And most of us had never smell something like that before.
Naturally, as a young adult, I followed the same path: I moved on my own to a big city, looking for movement, opportunities, cultural diversity, entertainment, people. In other words, I was scared of getting bored.
Let’s face it, there is not much you can do in small cities. Whereas in bigger city, you will always find something to keep you busy. Well, at least, this is what I was convinced.
After that, I finally decided it was really time for change. I moved to Wales for university, where the grass was much more greener than on my side, mostly due to the fact that they had much more grass there.
In Wales, I was introduced to the real country side. I loved it there ! The city girl in me made some space for the country girl. And when the opportunity of working on an organic farm in Germany came to me, I thought it was finally time to get my hand real dirty.
After finishing my three years degree, I packed my bags, gave my noticed at work, said my goodbyes, and went to Germany.
Jan Will’s employees
The farm was I had the chance to work it was called Jan Will. For one month, I worked with a bunch of lively, energetic and multicultural people. There was Anne, a dynamic 60 years old German women with the free spirit of a child; Horst, the owner’s farm dad, who always seemed to be at ease; Eva, the adorable secretary who is also multilingual and was really excited about having someone to practice her french with her for a couple of weeks, and an influx of polish people that were here so they could make good money to provide for their families in Poland.
What is organic farming ?
In simple words, growing organically is growing in harmony with nature, without using synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or products that can upset the balance of the ecosystem. Organic farms mean chemical-free farming. The plants in Jan Will are all grow naturally, using only water and a bit of love here and there.
For farmers or commercial growers, however, the term ‘organic’ can be quite more complex. But let’s leave complexity out of here.
One of Jan Will’s fields
My job consisted more in gardening. It was like working on a huge garden. And to be honest, at first, I used to refer to Jan Will as a organic garden rather than a farm. But that was only until Eva, the secretary, explained the difference to me. A garden produces food, plants, flowers and so on, for private use, when in fact a farm produces food, plants, flowers, fibres and so on, for others.
Why growing organically ? Because it is better for you, for the community and for the environment.
We were planting seeds, giving general care to the plants, maintaining the plants healthy, transplanting plants from growing area to pots and flower beds, watering plants, packing them into boxes for delivery to clients. And all naturally.
Plants grown in Jan Will
On my first day, because I wasn’t sure on what to except and never worked in a farm, I showed up wearing casual clothes I didn’t mind getting a bit dirty. I quickly learned that working on a farm means being EXTRA dirty, and wet. On the second day, I traded my simple trainers for rainy boots, my comfortable legging for some short work trousers and my I-dont-mind-getting-dirty t-shirt for a I-dont-mind-totally-ruining-it t-shirt.
And every wednesday was cake day !
Plum cake, made for the employees on ‘Wednesday cake day’
Gardening can seem like a simple, boring activity, but trust me, it wasn’t ! For me, it was like a daily relaxing exercise that requires hard work.
Have you read one of those articles suggesting that working around plants increase happiness and productivity ? Imagine working WITH them.
Ever heard those rumors saying that gardening is good for your health ? Well I couldn’t agree more.
It’s a stress buster and a mood boosting.
The experience was definitely enlightening. Before that, I didn’t know so much about plants. I was always using dry herbs while cooking. After a month, I knew a lot more about plants variety and about how to naturally grow certain plants, vegetables and flowers.
They also let me take some plants home. And my food has never been tastier than since I stopped using dry herbs (like rosemary, basil, etc.) in my food and replace them with fresh ones.
I went back home with some new skills and am planning on growing my own herbs now ! (It is really not that hard, and store-bought herbs will never match the flavor of homegrown). Most herbs require only little maintenance, and you can grow a generous amount of supply in a small space. By growing your own herbs, you are also saving money and redefining ‘fresh’. And it’s sustainable !
To work there, I didn’t need a degree in botany, gardening or horticulture, just motivation.
Here are some of the plants that they grow in Jan WIll:
Lists of all the plants grown in Jan Will
And if you too you’ve always dream about working on a farm, discover more of the countryside lifestyle, then there is this really cool organisation called WWOOF that connects people looking to volunteer on organic farms for periods of one week to several months in exchange for room and food. And it’s worldwide ! (I didn’t have to go through it cause my opportunity came directly to me but they are reliable)
They are bringing people together to a more sustainable way of life and are also promoting different cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange, and helping to build a sustainable and worldwide community.
Do you also wanna be a part of this growing sustainable community ?