Monday, April 1, 2019

Farming in Florida

      This new adventure first brought us to Kashi, an interfaith Ashram and intentional community in Sebastian, Florida, where they have a unique sustainable permaculture farming program. The Ashram's message is kindness, compassion, and service, and was a wonderful place to connect with nature.

There was so much abundant beauty at Kashi 
    We found this farm through a program called WWOOFing, which stands for WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms. At Kashi, we were given a place to park our camper (no hook-ups) and most of our food in exchange for working 5 1/2 hours a day, and five days a week, around the gardens. There are 9 abundant demonstration gardens with beautiful flowering trees and plants and delicious fruit and veggies. Each day was different, but a typical day at Kashi started at 7 am with meditation. Thirty minutes of daily meditation is part of the program (but it didn't have to be at 7 am). Then we usually met up with our team at 9 am to plan the morning and sometimes have discussions about life.  A typical morning  could include weeding, planting and mulching, planting seeds in the nursery, working in the greenhouse with the micro-greens, or harvesting purple sweet potatoes, or giant white sweet potatoes.
Giant white sweet potatoes, called Boniato

Mark helping to build a platform for a tiny home in the eco village

We would usually work until about noon, then have a break for lunch, then work again from  2 until about 4:30. Then we usually tried to harvest some of our dinner from the gardens.  On the weekends there was an amazing chef that would cook wonderful vegetarian meals for the community. (Kashi is a vegetarian community.)

    Each week there were various yoga classes that we could attend in the evenings and on our days off. I was able to experience classes from 9 different teachers, some more than once.
That's me at the back left corner
Many evenings we would have a campfire, stargaze and listen to the coyotes that were
across the river .


  We were fortunate to be part of a farm to table meal fundraiser. We harvested, set up and served a wonderful meal. It included mint & lemon grass tea sweetened with fresh sugar cane juice that we pressed from cane with a hand cranked press.
Serving appetizers at the farm to table dinner
     The property consists of 80 acres, much of it still wild and swampy. We heard owls at night, saw all kinds of birds including bald eagles, swallow tail kites, hawks, and at least 3 varieties of wood peckers. There were rabbits, snakes, frogs, butterflies, endangered gopher tortoises and lots of cute little lizards.
An endangered gopher tortoise 
We were even lucky enough to see bobcats.
Mark was lucky to get a great view of this bobcat!
We kayaked on the Sebastian River and saw a really big gator and cute small ones too. We also went to the beach a couple of times.
The ocean at Golden Sands Beach, Sebastian, Florida


We attended the first weekend of a permaculture design class. If you are wondering what permaculture is, one definition says it's the development of agriculture ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self sufficient. But to us it is also a way to design gardens in harmony and symbiosis with nature.
This was where we hung out and cooked our meals 

     Sustainable Kashi was an amazing, sometimes challenging place to have our first wwoofing experience. Terry, who leads the program, teaches and shares his vast knowledge with his eco- interns as he likes to call us, and promotes healthy eating, sustainable living and community.  The eco village used solar panels to light the kitchen and the outdoor composting toilet (that didn't smell).
Quite a fancy composting toilet! And it didn't even smell bad!
They also collect rainwater when possible for washing dishes. We enjoyed showering in the outdoor showers that were open to the sky (and had nice hot water). We like our camper shower, but now I miss showering outside!
These are just some of the amazing people that we met at Kashi! That's Swami Nar in between Mark and I, then Simon, from France, and Angie.
     Our next stop was a much more traditional farm called 12 Seasons Farm in Fort Myers, Florida. Where Kashi had more demonstration gardens, 12 Seasons is a production farm. They grow heirloom tomatoes, about 9 varieties of cherry tomatoes, strawberries, citrus and many garden veggies like kale, lettuce, peppers, onions, cucumbers, peas, squash and eggplant. They also have papaya, banana and mango trees. We worked 5 hours a day, usually from 8:30 to 1:30, five days a week. We typically spent our days picking and packing cherry tomatoes and strawberries. We also thinned fruit and pruned tomato plants.
We would pick anywhere between 30 and 100 pounds of
cherry tomatoes.

Then we pinted them up for sale.

 Who would have thought we'd be farmers for 6 weeks this winter! We've eaten great fresh produce at both farms, and learned a bit about what it takes to run an organic farm (think fighting bugs). It was a warm winter in Florida and the bugs have thrived and eaten more tasty produce than we did.

Kale that was so big that it looks like little palm trees. They built bamboo
houses with bug netting around most of the tomatoes and the cucumbers.

We had a new "pet".
A pileated woodpecker
His name is Woody woodpecker. Yep, he's a beautiful, but crazy, pileated woodpecker. He loved our camper and his reflection! He thinks he's quite handsome and could spend quite a long time just looking at himself in the windows of our camper or the truck. His story is that he was born in a giant live oak tree that was right beside where our camper was parked. The tree was taken down, but Woody keeps coming home. But since his home was gone he would fly around the camper, land on the window sills and peck at the caulk around his favorite windows.
This is Woody on the window!
He doesn't know his own strength, so we were worried that he might just peck a hole right through the camper. First we tried putting netting over some of the windows, but he would just hang on the netting. So then we covered most of the windows with plastic bags. the camper looked silly, but it did help keep Woody away.

     We enjoyed the Fort Myers beaches, Sanibel Island, and kayaking the Orange River and Lover's Key State Park on our days off.
Beautiful day kayaking the Orange river
Kayaked with manatees at Lover's Key
Gators at Big Cypress Preserve
Great Egret shaking off water on Sanibel
Reddish heron

Osprey family at Lover's Key

We learned so much at the farms about organic farming, permaculture and sustainable living. We are grateful to our wwoofing hosts.


  1. If ur still in ft myers, give me a call. We r at the end of main st, left just b4 u go over the bridge on San Carlos island

  2. Loved readinng this and followibg your adventures. Thought you'd be interested to know that Logan amd Paula are currently wwoofing in Hawaii. Hoping all of you bring your knowledge to me at the farm!

  3. So glad to have been a part of your adventures! And I can't wait to see what else you get in to!! Miss you two!

  4. Love hearing about all your adventures! Looks like you are learning more and more each day!

  5. Wow, great adventures! Missed you guys! Have fun this summer!