Welcome to Orangewood Lane! O.W.L. is all about food, culinary stories and my crazy adventures in France. About seven months ago, I wanted to change things up in my life. After working as an R&D Chef in California, I decided to leave my job, pack my bags and head to France for three months. It was one of the scariest decisions I have made, but one of the greatest. I started in Paris and traveled down to the South, went through Toulouse, then back up to Bordeaux and finally returned to Paris. During my three month excursion, I tried to learn all about French living. Wine, cheese, and bread, of course!! I took baking classes at Le Cordon Bleu to classes offered on Trip Advisor, but my most memorable experience was volunteering for WWOOF.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or WWOOF, is a non-profit organization where you volunteer your time and stay on organic farms. I signed up through their website https://www.wwoof.fr and paid a one-year membership for 25 Euros (it will be charged in U.S. dollars when you apply). Once I signed up, I created a profile and had access to a list of organic farms all over France. Based on where I was going to be, I filtered the farmers within the area and specified what type of farm I wanted to volunteer on. I was also able to select the amount of time I wanted to spend on each farm. Some farm hosts have websites and phone numbers on their profile pages and others did not. I selected farmers who had both or either, just for my own comfort. After I narrowed down my farm hosts, I sent a message with my request. I requested the time I wanted to spend on their farm and asked what a typical day of work would be like. Depending on the season, the farm work might be different. Once the host had confirmed my stay, it was now up to me to figure out how I was going to get to the farm.
The train system in France is excellent, that’s pretty much how I got around the country https://en.oui.sncf/en/. I used this website to get around and booked my tickets through the app and downloaded the tickets onto my phone. I will say it can be an adventure trying to get around the major stations, figuring out what platform your train is on and making sure you’re in the right cart. Super stressful!! But when in doubt, just ask and if the language is a barrier, just keep asking until someone friendly can help. Once I figured out my train route, I gave it to my farm host and we scheduled a time of when they could pick me up.
One major concern I had was that I’m a good old city gal! I’ve never been on a farm or worked on a farm and the only correspondence I had with my farm host was online. It felt a bit weird, but since I was volunteering on the farm, I had the freedom to leave. If the farm isn’t suitable for someone, they can go at any point, which is a bit of a relief and put me at ease. Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend just leaving. The farm host is counting on your help and might have turned away other WWOOFers’. But if it genuinely wasn’t working out I knew, I had the freedom to leave which helped ease my concerns. In my search, I found two great farms and just knew this was it. I LOVED the experience, I LOVED working on the farm, all of it.
It was all whimsical, the farm and the stories behind the farmers and their passion for the land and their values on what sustainable food should be. I felt like I was finally home and I wanted to continue on this journey.
After my 90-day tourist visa was up, I went back to the states and applied for a long-stay visa. Fast forward to present time, and I finally got my visa! I’m now heading back to France, hoping to continue on this journey. This is why I created Orangewood Lane.
Hope you enjoy as I try to navigate my way through this crazy time in my life! #awaywego