Living the WWOOF spirit -The Whitsun Festival 2024 from a host farmer’s perspective

Jun 8, 2024

When I had just returned from milking the sheep, the dance floor above me shook. While I was still worrying about the stability of the barn, I heard happy laughter, music and the rhythmic stomping of a large group of people from above. I don’t think so many people had ever gathered up here to dance together before. Anja explained the dances and Peer played with his son and friends in the dance band.

Perhaps that’s what makes this year’s WWOOF Whitsun Festival so special for all of us in our farm community: how we managed to pull everything together and contribute our respective talents.

Frank, the motivator and organizer of the annual Whitsun Festival, had suggested and advertised the meeting to us. We thought long and hard about whether we had the confidence to hold such a festival here. The conditions are very nice, but our remote location is not necessarily ideal for hosting large groups.

Frank allayed many of our concerns: toilets could be built in advance, there were experts in the group for everything. And Frank himself had a wealth of experience from the last 30 years of Whitsun meetings and knew what was important.

So we got down to work. We planned various projects, organized the materials, the kitchen team came up with recipes, we prepared construction sites and cleaned up. There was quite a lot to do in the run-up and sometimes it seemed overwhelming.

I had a dual role in the whole thing: as part of the kitchen team, I took care of the catering, and as a photographer, I captured the event in pictures.

The preparations had paid off. After a tour of the farm on Friday, the WWOOFers spread out across the various projects. A lot of progress was made and completed over the next few days.

Whenever I cycle onto the farm now, I cross the bridge over the stream and think to myself: “What a beautiful bridge.”

… then I remember how it was complet-ely renovated by three WWOOFers during those days. All the old beams were replaced while the bridge was still in use, the steps were bricked up and the railings were fixed. It was impressive to see how the three of them worked together, planned and carried out the work.

A chicken cart is almost finished and awaits its occupants. The large barn wall was partially renovated in the traditional clay building style. This showed the innovative spirit of the group, who discovered that the best way to prepare the clay plaster was by tamping.

The path between the cheese dairy and the cheese cellar was partially repaved. The stones that were moved for this were impressively large and could not be managed alone.
New decorative wickerwork was created in the garden.

In a secluded area of the grounds, known internally as the “relaxation area”, a fire-heated bathtub was built and it was possible to bathe in it straight away. The foundation stone for a pizza oven was also laid here.

“If there is such a thing as the WWOOF spirit –

we lived it this weekend.”

Some WWOOFers helped with the spring work in the farm fields: Weeding, pulling beets, planting, spreading manure, watering and building very solid scaffolding.

When they were not working on the projects, the helpers could be found scattered all over the site, engrossed in conversation, lying in the sun, bathing in the river or helping with the daily routine farm tasks that were also taking place on the side.

Cooking for the pack was fun…

… even though I had to process quantities that I wasn’t used to before. I was particularly pleased that almost half of the food we needed came from the farms themselves and that everyone enjoyed it.
As a photographer, I was able to follow the progress of the individual projects and also tried to capture the overall atmosphere. For example, the social program that was organized by the community. Anja started each morning with a yoga session. The dance evening mentioned at the beginning is already legendary. There was a free painting session with improvised live music by Peer and the band, which left a great impression on some of the visitors.
The Whitsun festival also became a family event for us. Almost all the adult children came back, supported us and led projects. In this way, impulses for the organization were also taken up and the schedule was adapted to everyday life on the farm. On Saturday evening, there was not only a campfire, but also a great techno event.

The project tour on Monday was a successful conclusion. Each team told us something about how they work and we marveled at the progress made. Here I also realized how important the Whitsun meeting is for some of the helpers. In the words of one WWOOFer: “I learn something new here every year. This year I’ve been learning about clay building. In a few years, I’ll be able to build my own house.”

By the time everything was tidied up and dismantled on Monday, we were exhausted. The next week brought a few surprises, so there was little time to process everything in peace. But I’m sure that this festival has left its mark on all of us. Be it that we suddenly remembered conversations while working in the field, or that we had new experiences ourselves and learned a lot (cooking for large groups in my case). Or that we are now completing one or two projects we started.
The memories of these days in May have become inscribed in the courtyards. It was great to see people working together to move something forward and to witness how many individuals become a group.

by Christina Häublein
WWOOF host Unterhammer

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