WWOOF-ing India Week 1: City Girl in a Farm World

Photo Mahek Shrinhey
Bags are packed! (Photo Mahek Shringhey)

** Editors Note: Over the next two months, EdenKeeper will feature the personal journal entries of Mahek Shringhey, a self-proclaimed “foodie” from Mumbai, India as she works on an organic farm in Goa and travels to vanilla plantations in southern India. Follow along on her mouth-watering journey as she explores the connection between the stomach, the heart, and the Earth, and let us know how her experiences inspire you to explore Mother Nature.

Clothes: check
Tickets and passport: check
Money: check

Note to self:
– DO NOT forget to take meds
– Recharge phone with enough credit
– stay happy, always.

I’m on my way to my first ever farm experience. I’ve travelled alone before; in the country and abroad, but this is going to be nothing like those fluff “FAM” trips. (I won’t lie by saying that I don’t miss those, but hey, I’m in it for the best of both worlds!)

At 23, most of my friends are either well settled with handsomely paying jobs or are studying to fulfill their dreams. I want to study too, but that’s going to have to wait a year because right now, I’m fulfilling my dream. And its never too late.

My love for food pushed me to really challenge the odds: no money of my own, no contacts, and no experience. I often felt defeated. But then I decided that I didn’t need things to be served to me on a silver platter, I’d have to build my life up from scratch on my own. And so I did. Relatively well connected and with money enough to sustain as long as I need, I have begun to traverse the path to gaining that experience.

I learned about World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (or WWOOF-ing) from my favorite blogger, Shaheen Peerbhai (a.k.a The Purple Foodie) when she graciously agreed to take out some time from her super busy schedule jam packed with classes she was conducting in Mumbai earlier this year. In an intoxicatingly fragrant room of fresh-baked cookies made with dark callebaut, I shared my desire to understand the depth of food in its entirety and the course I was planning to study that would supplement that desire with knowledge. In return, she asked, “Have you heard of WWOOF?” And the rest is history.

From foolproof recipes to such great advice, The Purple Foodie will always be my go-to person for all-things-food.

I decided to go WWOOF-ing in India to understand farming and sustenance thoroughly. After all, the journey of food begins underneath the soil, and I’d have to get dirty to know it.

Even though my love for food germinated while in school, it sprouted and blossomed through college and manifested fully in my first job. As a features writer for the country’s premier food, wine and travel magazine, I had the opportunity to meet a deluge of people from the food and beverage industry, and people from different walks of life pursuing their love for food. My passion grew stronger. I decided to quit and began to bake professionally and also jumped to advertising.

Photo by Mahek Shringhey
The house where I’m staying (Photo Mahek Shringhey)

The more I baked and read, the more I realized that there is much more to the grain than meets the eye. I needed to be able to do more. This wasn’t a gluttonous desire to be able to eat the best foie gras (which I believe is banned in India now over animal rights issues) or to set up the best baking business. It was to understand food in its holistic capacity, its affect on everybody in the supply chain and eventually on people.

In a dialogue with the father of green revolution in India, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Dr. Daisaku Ikdea says, “Life depends on food.” These simple words that I have taken to heart serve as the basis of my will to be able to work for food and food equality.

While I consider myself, pretty flexible, easy-going, and low maintenance, I can be quite dependent. As someone who has loved living in a city my entire life, having to live on a farm (in a village, may I add) with no television, friends or fancy restaurants (thank God for the Internet!) is slightly daunting.

My first stop is the Samata Holistic Retreat Center in Arambol, Goa. The retreat has two properties, one of which has a sprawling farm where organic fruits and vegetables are cultivated. I’ve been to Goa twice before and am definitely looking forward to my third trip there.

With an open-mind and 20 kgs of luggage, I’m set to dig deep and get dirty to get one step closer to my dream.

Signing off,
City Girl
Follow the rest of Mahek’s adventure:

Week 2: Bugs, Dung, and Darkness
Week 3: Growing Friendships & Plants
Week 4: Life Lessons
Week 5: Saying Good Bye

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About the Author

A 23 year-old city girl who wants nothing more than being able to eat without getting fatter, world peace and a pet pig. She is now on a mission to explore the depth of food in its full potential.