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Willing workers get hands dirty, learn about sustainable food sources

Nutrition instructor Owen Murphy got students out of their beds and into the fields on a Saturday. Murphy took 32 students to Rainshadow Organics on March 1 to work for six hours and learn about sustainable food sources with the program Willing Workers on Local Farms.

32 volunteers attended the March 1 WWOLF event.  Photo submitted by Owen Murphy
Thirty-two volunteers attended the March 1 WWOLF event. Photo submitted by Owen Murphy

The WWOLF program was brought to the local sphere by Central Oregon Locavore and was designed after a national program World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

“In the international program, WWOLF, you can actually enroll and live overseas and work for room and board,” said Murphy.
WWOLF was started as a way to connect small farmers with community members interested in learning about local food sources, according to Patrick Brown, executive director of Central Oregon Locavore.

This need on both sides is what contributes to this program’s continuing success, according to Brown.

“People are able to meet farmers and learn about issues relating to growing food,” Brown said. “People are also able to gain satisfaction of completing projects as well as finding out where food comes from.”

The WWOLF program is entirely volunteer based, and Murphy encourages students to participate. Murphy currently teaches HHP 268, sustainable food nutrition, and said the WWOLF project “nicely aligns” with material being taught. There are many skills individuals can learn by participating in this project, according to Murphy.

“I hope participants are able to get a sense of community and a sense of empowerment,” Murphy said. “I feel like this program encourages people to learn what affects their food choices have.”

To Murphy, this sense of community is as important as the tangible products completed during the events.

“If we can get 20 to 30 people to come and help for four to five hours that could be equivalent to two to three weeks of work,” Murphy said.

Local farms typically uses diversity in growing instead of focusing on larger yield, Murphy explained.

“We didn’t have pests until we started to mono-crop. Having diversity in farm settings leads to greater resistance to pests,” Murphy said. “Diversity leads to a greater protection financially too because there are no subsidies for small scale farmers if their crop is attacked by a pest. There is no safety blanket.”

A total of 32 volunteers attended on March 1. The COCC office of Community Relations sponsored the event with lunch and beverages for all volunteers, according to Murphy.

“COCC’s participation in this event shows their commitment to the community,” Murphy said.

At the April event volunteers broke down an old hoop house so the farmer could rebuild a functional one. Volunteers were also able to start on building a structure that will allow farmers to cultivate mushrooms on the property.

“This was the first time i’ve been involved with this, and it was a big success,” Murphy said.
The next WWOLF event will be on April 12 and will be at Juniper Jungle Farm. To sign up or for more information contact Owen Murphy at omurphy@cocc.edu

Molly Svendsen
The Broadside
(Contact: msvendsen@cocc.edu)

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