Traveler's Tales

Almost an Organic Farm Fairytale

by Eileen Lee

Komeichi Farm. All Photos Courtesy of Eileen Lee.

Chasing after cute animals, making jam, and growing wise on a porch swing. The country life city folks dream about. Here's how Singapore native and recent college grad Eileen Lee found it through WWOOF-ing, working on an organic farm, in Wakayama, Japan.

WAKAYAMA, Japan — I've always dreamed of becoming a farmer's wife. I grew up in Singapore, and you know how it is: grass is always greener on the other side. Especially on the rolling hills of Switzerland, a place I had recently traveled to and fallen hard for. I pictured peaceful days spent reading and growing wise on a wooden, prairie-side porch swing.

But after a while, like any fast-paced city girl in need of instant gratification, I got tired of waiting around for my big, strong farmer husband and decided to take matters into my own hands. As part of my three-week university graduation trip, I traveled to Wakayama, Japan, to spend eight days working at Komeichi, an organic farm that does agriculture au natural. I learned a bit about vegetable farming from farm owner Yohei-san and his family and staff while living in their lovely traditional Japanese home. I signed up through WWOOF, an organization (similar to helpx) where volunteers can work on farms in return for food and lodging.

Japanese House

Welcome home!

Farm

The farm.

Everything at Komeichi is grown as naturally as possible — no pesticides, no fertilizers, no weeding, no pruning. It sounds like less work, but it's actually a lot harder — we did all of the farming manually and used minimal machinery. During my stay we planted cucumber, eggplant, carrots, and capsicum (resulting in the only vegetables I know how to say in Japanese). Spring in Wakayama can be chilly, and Yohei-san and his family generously loaned us their farm clothes to throw on over our jeans and tees to keep us warm.

The farm was organic to the core. I took it a step further by setting myself a personal rule of no cell phones or cameras when I'm on the field. Disconnecting from the outside world was a true escape. I finally started to feel like I was living the simple life.

Ready to Farm

All dressed up and ready to farm.

Komeichi is primarily a rice farm, but it wasn't harvesting season during my stay, so we helped out in other ways than just working the fields. On weekends, Yohei-san opened his small pizza house where we volunteered as kitchen helpers and sous-chefs. Japanese buns and oven-baked pizzas were our reward.

An unexpected treat was getting to know Yohei-san and his farming staff who felt like family. My Japanese is actually quite terrible, and their English isn't too great either, so every day was a charade of communication. Yohei-san and his good friend, Taichi-san, play the drums and sing. Many an evening was spent joining in for some musical fun as they practiced for their performances. Their adorable cat, Shiro, was a constant and pleasant comfort around the house.

cooking

Baking treats.

Jamming

Nightly jam sesh with the host family.

Cat

One Japanese word I definitely learned how to say: Neko! (That's cat.)

I'm back in Singapore and still remain a daydream away from my fantasy of becoming a farmer. But my experience at Komeichi allowed me to live out a different fantasy, one I didn't even know I had or wanted — becoming part of a simple community and culture so different from my own. WWOOF-ing is really one of the most cost-effective and rewarding trips you can take. I hope to return to my friends at Komeichi and spend my days planting organic gardens, and my evenings growing wise on a porch swing.

MORE ABOUT WWOOF JAPAN

A year's membership to WWOOF Japan it 5500¥ (roughly $53). By becoming a member, you can access all of the host farm's profiles and information. Contact hosts through the website to arrange for a stay. After your stay is confirmed, you just need to get yourself there, and then everything else (food, accommodation) is covered.

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE

Going Organic on the Mediterranean
Giving Back: Ridge to Reef Farm

He Built a Farm in Paradise

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