Smelling the scent of wet grass, opening my eyes to green rolling hills spotted with ponies and sheep, feeling the sharp chill of the morning air and hearing the chirping of birds; my mornings at Rangitikei Farm were a highlight during my time as a WWOOF volunteer. Living in “The Bunkhouse” allowed me to wake up so close to nature every day. Sitting on the porch eating breakfast and sipping coffee while looking out at the farm and typically being greeted by the friendly family dog, Porky, started off every day positive and fresh.
My friend Sara and I are two recent university graduates from the United States. We arrived at the Stewart’s in early March after spending a few weeks in Auckland. Neither of us had any experience WWOOFing previously but were determined to work hard and immerse ourselves in Kiwi farm life.
Tasks and jobs on Rangitikei Farm varied daily but the same smiling faces greeted us every time we stepped into the Stewart Family’s home. Hannah, the oldest daughter, always loved helping us with gardening tasks and playing creative games on rainy days. Charlotte, at only one year old, smiled at us every morning and enjoyed dancing to music when we would babysit her. Andrew was typically already out in the paddocks working hard to maintain the farmland that has remained in his family since 1901, although I occasionally heard him whistling to his mustering dogs from across the hills. Kylie, who typically assigned our workday tasks, became a friend and an inspiration during our time on the farm. I felt so impressed by the endless hours of hard work Kylie and Andrew put into making Rangitikei Farm beautiful and successful.
Over the course of one month, Sara and I sliced hundreds of agapanthea flower stems, cut heaps of tall grass, folded lots of washing and scrubbed many walls. At the end of the day, the hard work was rewarded with cooking delicious food and having nice conversations with Kylie (and watching The Bachelor New Zealand on Mondays and Tuesdays!). We enjoyed chatting with Kylie about Kiwi family life, starting her small Farmstay business and chocolate! Spending time with Kylie and her family brought a unique cultural aspect to our stay and made it an experience we will not forget.
Our first experience as WWOOF volunteers was so special and rewarding. We gained knowledge and life experience that could not be replicated in a traditional work environment. I know we will cherish the time we spent on Rangitikei Farm for the rest of our lives.
Written by Emma