Blog and photos from Anna Rapson
7 weeks ago, I arrived in Yarra Junction, a little bit confused and extremely exhausted. My host was nowhere to be seen, and after three hours of traveling to get to the valley, I was upset and already in a bad mood. After about an hour, my host Travis picked me up on the side of the road. I discovered that that day was Hands on the Earth day, the first Saturday of the month where members of the community gather at the farm to help plant and reconnect with the soil. We pulled into the small driveway and it was then that I got my first idea of Peace Farm. It was smaller than I expected. There were toys and miscellaneous items scattered on the ground and my mood honestly worsened. I wondered what the heck I had got myself into.
Now, I know that there is a story behind this beautiful place and even the toys on the ground. There are three families living on the farm, each one holding responsibility for a different area of the farm. Travis and Emilie do the planting and harvesting on the farm. Travis also is in charge of the weekly veggie boxes that people from all around the area get. Every box is different, and filled to the brim with beautiful, colorful veggies grown in our back yard. Matt and Kat are in charge of propagation, and selling seedlings. They also have four crazy kids that are just a huge bundle of energy and happiness. Matt grows each vegetable on the farm and in garden from seed, and nurtures it until it can survive by itself in the soil by itself. Last, Murrie and Vicky, also known as Mux and Vix, work with natural buildings and find new ways to recycle old metal or scraps and make them into something useful. Murrie and Vicky live in a tiny house that they hand made three years ago. Murrie is constantly creating and his inventions include a pizza oven, bikes, ovens, and so much more. Vicky is more artsy and she loves eco-dying and yoga. She holds yoga every week, which the WWOOFERs are welcome to attend for free. I have even dyed some socks with her, just using plants. What she does is truly incredible. Every family contributes something unique and essential to keeping the farm well oiled and happy.
Every week, the wwoofers get to work with each family. Mondays and Thursdays are with Matt and Kat, Tuesdays and Wednesdays with Travis and Emilie, and Fridays with Murrie and Vicky. Each day we do something different, but like I said earlier, each family has their specialty. Every morning, the wwoofers have to feed the chickens and goats, and can help milk the goats if we wish. Being a vegan, I was scared to come to a farm with animals as I thought they would maybe butcher them or mistreat them or something like that, but I am really happy to say that the animals here are just as happy as the people. The goats and cows get to graze all day on huge areas of land and the cows don’t get milked. The chickens are free range as well and there are absolutely no cages. If the family ever does need meat, they do butcher some of their animals but they do it in a very humane way, and use every bit and piece of the animal. None of it goes to waste at all. After the animal routine, we usually harvest or prep beds with Travis, propagate with Matt, and work on miscellaneous projects with Murrie. Right now we are finishing up the pizza oven.
The weekends are free to do whatever we like! I have ventured into Melbourne, two and a half hours by public transport, many times and have fallen completely in love with the city. There are always festivals going on, and tons of amazing food and live shows. I have even seen Glass Animals, Twenty One Pilots and James Vincent McMorrow live. One weekend, Kat and Vicky even took me to a women’s festival. It was the first time I had ever been to a festival like that, and I got a free ticket just by volunteering. I got to attend tons of talks and seminars, ranging from health to self-love to even hoola hooping classes! If you don’t want to go all the way into town, there are tons of great hikes right near Yarra Junction. A short trip away is the Healesville Sanctuary, where there are many native animals. About 10 minutes away is Warburton, another small town with great food and a movie theater. There really isn’t a lack of things to do, and some weekends you may just want to plop down and sleep. There are also some events that happen on Peace Farm. Every year, the farm hosts a Tomato Festival that attracts usually 200 people! We make homemade pizza, there is dancing, tomato tasting, and even a tomato fashion parade. There is also, as I mentioned before, Hands on the Earth day. There really is never a dull day here!
Peace Farm provides food for the wwoofers and we get one meal a day with them, although it is usually lunch. They cook for us, and often we get to help prepare it if we wish. Accommodation is also really flexible! I live in a room next to Travis’s house, but there are also three caravans that are in good shape and really cute.
Although everything here is really amazing, I think it is also important to look at the challenges. The biggest hurdle I’ve found while I’ve been here is actually the constant flow of wwoofers. Most wwoofers that come to Peace Farm only stay for two weeks average, so it has been really hard on me getting close to these people and then having them leave. That was the case with the first people I met on the farm. We all connected extremely well, and it was really heartbreaking when they all left. It is of course awesome to get to know a bunch of interesting people from around the world, but I won’t lie that it is hard to say goodbye so many times. The weather is also a little bit challenging. I come from Michigan, so I am used to pretty cold days. Here it gets to 39 C, about 100 F and the sun can be very intense. Towards the end of May it begins to cool down, but the heat can definitely be hard sometimes. Other than that my only other complaint is the mossies! The mosquitos can be annoying, but a good pair of socks and long pants at night pretty much takes care of that problem. ☺
A month and a half ago, I think that I was scared to start this new chapter in my life and probably very sleep deprived. Today, I feel probably the happiest and freest I’ve ever felt. Working at Peace Farm has exposed me to so many elements in my life that I had never been in contact with before. Growing up in the United States, it is hard to have a real connection with our food. It comes in packages that we pick up at a grocery store of our choice. If we are lucky, we can afford the organic, healthy varieties, but that isn’t the case for everyone. So many people don’t have the opportunity to nourish themselves with real foods that come from loving homes. We often forget where that bland, white blob of meat is and where it comes from. We don’t get to partake in the growing process of what we are fueling our bodies with. For the past two months, I have been able to watch the whole process from the beginning. I feel so grateful and lucky to be able to be learning so much about growing food. I am so excited to take all this new knowledge back home and apply it to my life in the states. Thank you Peace Farm for supporting me and showing me how to really care for myself through happy and healthy foods.