Today Matt and I departed from our second WWOOF farm, an organic garden situated on the border of France and Switzerland in a picturesque medieval village called Hermance. When we decided to work on this farm we had no idea that we were about to wander into such a beautiful place. Hermance is a tiny town on the banks of Lac Leman, and if there were no cars or people you might have thought you’d stepped off the bus into the distant past. The huge clear lake is the focal point of the town, attracting sailors and scuba divers from near and far, and on the banks of which Matt and I spent a great deal of time.
The farm we where we worked is called Potagers de Gaia, and is operated by three men and their never ending stream of WWOOFers. The farmer we worked with most is a friendly guy named Jeremie, who wore clothes almost as dirty as ours and whose catchphrase, “Avec pleasure,” was quickly adopted by every single WWOOFer on the farm. Jeremie speaks pretty good English, loves salad and has the kind of attitude that makes you think he’s never been angry a day in his life. He gave us permission to taste test tomatoes if we were unsure of their ripeness, which we did happily and often. (He also loved to make Matt eat all the leftovers, which I think Matt loved, too.)
Potagers de Gaia has a self-service vegetable market in Hermance and also distributes weekly bags of in-season produce to locals based on purchased memberships. There’s also a vineyard associated, Domaines de Dix Vins, which makes fantastic wine that Matt and I were fortunate enough to sample on our last day of work (And it has hands down the best bottle artwork we’ve ever seen).
The garden itself is comprised of several large greenhouse tunnels, a few small fields, a chicken coop, several bee hives and an herb garden. From just these few acres of land we harvested an unbelievable amount of produce just during our two weeks here– carrots, tomatoes, leeks, garlic, patissons, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, peppers, beans, and of course, zucchini.
This WWOOFing experience really could not have been more different than our first farm in Croatia. Jeremie was of the philosophy that it was better for us to spend only a few hours happily working with the plants each day than to work for long hard hours and send bad energy into the garden. So, on a typical day, we would begin working at the garden around 7 a.m. and spend the morning picking ripe veggies in the tunnels. At ten we’d break for tea and a snack (they called it tea time, I called it second breakfast), and then work out in the fields until lunchtime. Each day we would cook an enormous lunch from the garden’s reject produce (tomatoes with ugly spots, overgrown beans, etc.) and eat together with Jeremie and the other WWOOFers. By early afternoon, we were free to do what we wanted. After having virtually no leisure time in Croatia, we were a little overwhelmed by all this freedom. We’d usually spend our afternoons reading by the lake, biking into neighboring villages or hiking on the trails around town.
Rather than staying in our host’s home, the farm has two little cabins designated just for WWOOFers. Matt and I shared a cabin with two other workers, and we all had a shared kitchen and bathroom. Once a week, Jeremie would stock the kitchen with groceries based on our requests, and we were able to cook and eat as we pleased for breakfast and dinner.
Aside from the fact that this place was beautiful and the lifestyle suited us, the best part about our two weeks in Hermance was that it made us realize how easily a new place can become a home. The day we got off the bus in Hermance we had no idea what to expect, we didn’t know anyone and we didn’t understand the language. We’ve always known that we’re highly adaptable people, not needing much to be content and good at going with the flow, but I think Hermance brought this to a whole new level for us. We were only there for two weeks, but by the end of our stay I’d kind of forgotten that it wasn’t our home, that Potagers de Gaia wasn’t a real job and that the other WWOOFers weren’t lifelong roommates.
So today we left, sent off with well wishes and hugs and a bag of garden veggies, on to find home in the next place.