WWOOFing Part 2 - Organic September


Welcome back to my account of our WWOOFing adventures when in 2016 my husband, Simon, and I travelled to France to work on Organic farms. The second stay on our 3 month trip was with Arash and Anielka and their little daughter further south in La Coquille in the Dordogne region of France. It was nearing the end of August and we had planned to follow the sun as we entered into autumn. Our hosts had a farm called 'l'ilot Abondance', the Island of Abundance and was a very different set up than the one we were used to.


We were here to be workers. Arash had a schedule for us to keep to which, whilst it involved earlier mornings than with our previous hosts, promised to be a true reflection of the life of an organic market vegetable farmer and would involve the hard work we were looking forward to. Each week for the next three weeks we would work on the farm tending to and harvesting veg for Arash and were to be ready for work at 7.45am each weekday (to beat the sunshine). There would be a mid morning tea break followed by more work until a late lunch, which we would help to prepare. By this time the sun would be unbearable so we would be given free time and then, later in the day, there could be one final short session of work before the evening meal.


Arash explained that he had acquired the land only two years prior and had done all of the work himself...with the aid of WWOOFers. Anielka, his partner, was a teacher and whilst she would help where possible, it was Arash who took on the responsibility for their farm. He was concerned about the drought conditions they were experiencing and was finding the work difficult. We hoped we would be able to help lighten the load whilst we were there.


The first morning we began by digging up potatoes. It didn't help that we had no idea where they were. The plot seemed to be covered in dead stems and leaves from all kinds of plants and I had never even seen a potato plant before. I'll admit we didn't do a great job. We spent about three hours digging through dry ground and filled just two crates. We also managed to stab the fork straight through a few of the potatoes which Arash wasn't too pleased about. He told us we needed to be more careful.

The sun had risen very quickly and there was no shelter from the blazing heat so it was a difficult environment to work in but we soon learned to use plenty of sun lotion, stay hydrated and always wear one of the selection of straw hats that were provided. We adapted quite quickly to this new routine and each morning we were there on time, ready for duty. Over the three weeks we regularly harvested the potatoes, courgettes, beans, lettuces etc although for the first week we laughed about the fact that Arash had suggested we stay out of the polytunnels where the tomatoes and aubergines were, the implication being that we were too clumsy and couldn't be trusted! We soon won him over as we proved ourselves to be quick learners and by the end we were in there filling punnets with lovely red cherry tomatoes. Other tasks included sowing seeds, planting out seedlings, weeding and watering. All of the harvested veg was stored in a cool room, kept that way by a small air conditioning unit. The 'wonky' veg that wasn't selected to go to market was used in our meals and tasted just as good as the marketable versions.




We loved the variety of tasks we were given and we learnt so much. Arash clearly loved what he did and explained his reasons for his methods at all times. He particularly stressed the importance that, in most cases, smaller was better as the flavour was more concentrated and was very specific about size when harvesting. He despaired when we would find courgettes that we had missed in previous picking sessions, they grew so huge so quickly! Nothing was wasted though, we ate lots of courgettes for our meals over the three weeks. It was sometimes back breaking work, surprisingly it was the seemingly smaller tasks involving lots of bending, like planting out, rather than the heavy lifting that made us ache the most. We were always ready for our bed at the end of the day.


Our bed this time was in an apartment they had set up just for WWOOFers. We had a bathroom, a hot shower and our own living room. We shared this occasionally with other WWOOFers who came and went during our stay. Compared to our previous room in the roof of the straw house, this was luxury, although the presence of mice was something they had in common....just part of life in the country!



Every Friday Arash would leave to go to Bordeaux market and we had the weekend off to do as we pleased. It was on this stay we began to make the most of our free time and be tourists too. We went on plenty of walks and went wild swimming, we explored caves and visited local markets. There was plenty of relaxation time too and we loved spending time with the family, the other WWOOFers (of which there were 2 solo travellers) and the family cats. Anielka took great pride in the herb spiral she had made; I'd never even heard of banana mint or garlic chives! She took us on a walk to a local edible herb garden where she talked of all of the medicinal herbs and their uses. It ignited another passion in me that continues today. During our stay I was treated by Anielka for a cold with her homemade elderberry syrup and thyme tea and within a few days I felt fully recovered so I decided from that point on to always look for remedies in nature where possible.


Once again, we were very sad to leave. We had loved our time here and would miss the family we had become a part of. They were truly inspiring as the life they had chosen wasn't easy and there were risks but they felt strongly about the importance of organic farming practices, the need to live more sustainably and the impending climate crisis.

By the end of our stay there had been some cooler days and, much to Arash's relief, even some rainy days. It was mid September and we packed up our little Aygo and set off to our third destination: Rouffiac, Charente- Maritime. Again, further south and nearer the coast.


Thank you for reading, I hope you have enjoyed this blog entry for Organic September. If you missed the first instalment, you can find it here WWOOFing Part 1 - Organic September (village-greens-coop.co.uk)