Granja Valle Pintado, near El Bolsón, Argentina seeks interns and volunteers for the 2011-2012 season - "La Agricultura al servicio de la Tierra y la Comunidad"
The Granja Valle Pintado is located 6 kilometers outside of the lively artisan town of El Bolsón, Argentina among the Patagonian Andean mountains on the 42nd latitude, and along the banks of the pristine Río Azul river. The farm is on a piece of 8 hectares (20 acres) of land that were bought as a community living project in 2003 by a group consisting of Argentines, Chileans, Americans, and Canadians. Currently Alex Edleson, farmer and founder of Granja Valle Pintado is one of several residents on the land.
We work the land through manual-style, low-till, organic agricultural practices, inspired by the principles of Steiner's biodynamics, the natural farming of Fukuoka, and permaculture. Above all, we envision our work as a path toward cultivating inner awareness and the healing of the Earth. The farm organism of today has an important social responsibility as, not only an economic nexus, but also an educational and therapeutic one insofar as it is an entity that manifests and connects us to the active forces and processes of nature, both cosmic and earthly. We seek to bring ancient wisdom to the necessities and contributions of the modern context.
Life on the farm is simple and rustic. We do not have electricity and heating is mostly from firewood. The farm is still in its formative stages but for the last couple of years on nearly 1 hectare (2.5 acres) we have been growing small-scale grains, vegetables, fruit and pasture, saving seed, raising chickens, geese, bees, a milking cow and a horse that helps with farm work and transport. We are currently in the process of integrating the biodynamic preparations to our cultivation. Together with a very small biodynamic community, we are able to make some of these preparations. Except for the winter months, we receive volunteers usually through our posting with WWOOF and Organic Volunteers who work in exchange for food and lodging (see guidelines below). We have received school groups from our local Waldorf and we hope to continue cultivating this relationship with the school.
The farm is pioneering the community-supported agriculture model (or CSA) in Argentina, or what we call locally "agricultura asociativa", which is a model that we believe can save the small, diverse farm from the encroachment of the factory agro-industry model. We believe it is not enough to transform our cultivating methods toward organic means, if we have not also transformed the socio-economic model that sustains them. To us, this means liberating agriculture from malicious market pressures by empowering local community economics. The farm is sustained by a group of local townspeople who financially and ethically support the way we farm. The harvest is divided into boxes and delivered weekly to share among farm's member families, along with a range of other products we make like cheese, yoghurt, beer, dried herbs, jams, and chutneys.
The farm has developed its infrastructure, including the central community kitchen, using natural building, like straw-bale, cob, adobe, and other techniques with mud, straw, and rustic carpentry. There are two community resident homes on the land already completed in this way.
In the last couple of years the farm and community have hosted workshops in agriculture and natural building. Three years ago we hosted Panos Manikis, principal disciple and living successor of the Japanese farmer-philosopher Fukuoka. Since his visit to Patagonia, our farm has become part of an initiative to sow beyond our farms and regreen the arid regions like the Patagonian steppes as well as reforesting areas that have suffered fires using Fukuoka's technique of preparing clay seed balls. In the summer of 2011, we hosted the region's largest natural building and appropriate technology festival called BioConstruyendo.
Alex Edleson is the principal community farmer on the land. He has been living in Argentina for the last 8 years, though he was born and raised to American parents in Indonesia. After receiving his bachelor's degree in "Spirituality and Sustainability" in the United States alongside apprenticeships in natural building and permaculture, he moved to El Bolsón where he continued to be involved with these activities. On the community land at the Rio Azul he was able to begin to manifest his dream of living closer to the land, where he built himself an earthen home and began the Asociativa Farm initiative in 2009 together with local townspeople, after tending a garden there since 2004. In the last year he left his work teaching English and gardening at the local Waldorf school in order to dedicate himself entirely to the Farm, although he continues as part of the local Waldorf Pedagogical Seminar and is a student of anthroposophy. He is fluent in Spanish, English, and Indonesian. He believes that we are all gifted with valuable attributes, and that their cultivation helps us to make important contributions to the evolution of humanity. He is a meditator and looks forward to musical improvisations around the fire.
VOLUNTEER AND INTERN PROGRAMS 2011-2012
In modern times, manual labor has been belittled as nothing more than another commodity cost that is a necessary "evil" of industry. Among the principles of associative economics we work with on our farm, we view labor as an opportunity for self-development. The work on our farm largely depends on volunteer labor, on the one hand as a means to carry out the necessary tasks in a fashion that does not limit the labor relationship to a purely economic one, but also as part of our vision that the farm is an educational entity. Although we do not orient our work toward education, as a living organism, being part of the farm community and working together already implies that learning is involved. Learning is a life-long process; we have received volunteers from 18 to 64 years old from 5 continents, and everyone has something to teach.
One of our goals receiving volunteers and interns is to seed and disseminate a whole new generation of ecologically mindful farmers and farm-supporters. Farm work can often be hard work and for everyone's sake, we are currently only accepting volunteers and interns who have some previous experience in country life, in gardening, farming, or animal rearing. This is not to discourage those who are new, but we can recommend a number of places even locally where to begin that could give a good base, before you might consider joining us.
Joining us on the farm as a volunteer is NOT for people who are looking for just a cheap way to travel. Also, we have also had many people come because they have wanted to deepen their Spanish. Although Spanish is the default language on the farm, if you are a beginner, we will most likely not speak to you in Spanish if it will compensate the work flow.
If you are interested in coming to our farm as a volunteer, intern, or even as a farm assistant, please read carefully through the guidelines below, then send us the application form you will find at the end.
Volunteer Program Description:
Duration of Stay: The minimum stay is 6 weeks; please do not ask for an exception. We will do an individual revision of your volunteer stay periodically throughout your time with us - to ask ourselves how we are doing, what we enjoy and what more we need. Stays longer than the number of weeks expected for each session are recommended; however, these requests for extended stays will only be evaluated in those weeks of individual revision. We maintain anywhere between 2-4 volunteers at any given time of year. Please note that the farm really does depend on volunteers for its functioning, so we must know if you are not coming or have to depart early.
Work Expectations: 6-7 hours/day, 5 1/2 days a week.
Lodging: In the spring and autumn sessions lodging is offered. In the summer session lodging is not guaranteed though possible, but camping out is highly recommended! Due to limited space, for now most of our lodging situation is co-ed. You are expected to bring your own sleeping bag or other appropriate bedding.
Food: Everyone participates in the cooking and clean up in the community kitchen. Depending on the season, we try to eat most of our food from the farm. Although the farm is unable to grow all our food needs, all basic food items are provided for. The meals are simple but complete. We offer a basic vegetarian diet. On rare or festive occasions we might pool together funds for those who wish to share a meal with meat. Any special "additional food items" go on your own account but special treats are welcomed by everyone. We do not receive monetary compensation from any volunteers or interns.
NOTE: May it be clear that the above guideline is merely to present an idea of how things work on the farm. For example, no one will be counting your hours, given that we are all here because we volunteer to be, to learn and to share, and we are all free to be. Nevertheless, they are guidelines that provide us with an idea of what is expected of us and recommended for harmonious community living.
Farm interns are like volunteers but are individuals willing to make a deeper commitment to the farm or who are seeking to further their previous experience in farming. The guidelines for interns are much the same as volunteers, except the minimum expected duration of stay is 3 months. Intern positions are reserved for people who might already have had experience farming, gardening, or animal rearing (which may include previous experience as a volunteer on our farm). There are only ever 1-2 interns at any given time.
Intern Focus of Study:
During the intern or farm assistant's stay, they are expected to take certain responsibilities on the farm. The focus of study is a plan that the intern is expected to present (though may opt not to) in a particular area of interest that serves the purpose of diversifying roles of initiative on the farm and to serve the interest of the intern to deepen their own path in farming. For the present season, the farm is offering the following areas for initiative and focus:
- Biodynamic preparations
- Breeding Chickens
- Cow rearing and pasture management
- Dairy production
- Food preservation practices
- Greenhouse construction
- Natural building for farm infrastructure
- Nendo-Dango: clay seed balls for regreening
- Perennial plants propagation
- Seed saving
- Topics in Biodynamic agriculture
- Topics in Natural agriculture
- Topics in Permaculture
- Tree care
- Working with horses
If a plan of study is carried out, it will be coordinated together with the farmer. No more than 2 topics in a 3 month period may be carried out. In prior communication with the farmer, the intern should determine the appropriate time of year to come that bears relation to the proposed topic with the activities on the farm at that time. Time is dedicated to weekly readings (volunteers will be welcome) and practical applications are determined through proposals that must arise out of farm necessities (but note that the activities of the study only are meant to accompany the principal farm tasks necessary). Classes on varied themes from basketweaving, ceramics, cheese-making, blacksmithing, food preservation, etc. are also given at the local adult agro-technical school (tuition is free) seasonally.
Farm Assistant Position:
After at least 2 months on the farm, an intern may be considered for the farm assistant position. If accepted, allows an extension of the minimum 3 month period for interns and immediately activates a monthly stipend (the figure can be negotiated but may be approximately $400 pesos). If your intention is to join as farm assistant, you must first enter as an intern, but at any point prior or during your internship, may submit an application. Minimum commitment is 4 months and there can only be one farm assistant at a time. The farm assistant position is only recommended for people who have previous farming experience.
Description of Seasonal Work:
Note that this is merely a guide and does not reflect the season's planning. Throughout the seasons, all volunteers and interns are expected to participate in maintenance of the farm animals, which include the chickens, cows, horse, dogs, and cats.
Spring (15th of August - November):
This is the busiest season of all. Activities are mostly related to agriculture: preparing fields, sowing, transplanting, and weeding; though some building and advancement of farm infrastructure can be expected. Spring is the most sacrificial season, because we work harder than other seasons with the least amount of return in produce from the land, but the season that offers most opportunity for learning.
Summer (December - February):
Activities are focused on building and advancing farm infrastructure, while agricultural activities are related to maintenance of the crops (especially weeding and irrigation). We enter into steady rhythm delivering the weekly harvest and we begin to process the first harvest of fruits, like cherries, berries, and currants. By February we begin a new series of important succession plantings that will be our autumn crop.
Autumn (March - May):
Activities are mixed between building, agricultural activities, and harvesting and preparing firewood. We are usually rushing to complete building activities we have begun in the season. Otherwise, we are preparing fields, sowing winter cover crops, and processing the harvest of vegetables (chutneys and sauerkraut), grains, and fruit (such as rose hip, apple, plum, quince, pear, etc.). This session ends by the beginning of June after the planting of garlic and we have put our fields to bed for the winter, when the season's volunteer program ends.
Winter (June - 15th of August):
In general we do not receive volunteers during this session, except for special cases and proposals. Activities are related to planning and design, processing the harvest, maintenance of farm infrastructure, maintenance of animals, and REST.
Please note that the farm does not have insurance to cover you. We prefer that you have insurance coverage and if you do not, we might not let you carry out potentially dangerous tasks (especially work with machinery, or logging). In any case we will observe the following precautions (as recommended by the WWOOF host guide):
- We will never ask a volunteer or intern to perform a dangerous task, such as working with certain types of machinery (like chainsaws). We will try to make sure that tools are in good working order.
- We always determine if a volunteer or intern is competent to carry out a task before carrying them out.
- We give the volunteers and interns freedom to say 'no' if they don't feel comfortable with a particular task.
Upon entering the country, Argentina allows you an automatic 3-month tourist visa. If during your stay on the farm you will be required to renew the visa, other than a one-time extension opportunity for a fee in town, you have the possibility to do the overnight hike to the border of Chile to get your visa renewed. This is usually an easy and pleasant way to renew.
What to bring:
- Sleeping bag
- Flashlight (fundamental)
- Hat (especially October through March)
- Waterproof clothing and boots (especially August-October, and May-June)
- Towel and shower toiletries
- Work gloves (optional)