So…we made it to Minnesota! After leaving the Upper Peninsula (after an extended stay) and visiting northern Wisconsin, we felt it time to move on. Wisconsin offers SO much more that we didn’t see, but having been in the state before and its relative proximity to Michigan, we decided chances were pretty good we’d be back for more good times in Wisconsin!
Earlier in our adventure planning, Jason and I had learned about WWOOFing from fellow bloggers and new acquaintances, and we were excited about the potential for learning new things, new skills, and meeting new people. WWOOFing is an acronym for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Simply put, it means visitors are linked up to farms where they can learn about organic practices through participation. Host farms offer experiences, some sort of accommodation, and usually food in exchange for helping hands that the visitor (aka us!) provides. We signed up a couple of weeks ago and decided to look for a family friendly farm, somewhere near US-2 headed West. We plugged in our criteria (RV friendly, kid-friendly, shorter length of stay for our first experience) and up popped The Honeyberry Farm, in Bagley, MN. We contacted the owners, Jim and Bernis and had a response within an hour. Yes…they’d love to have us work with them!
We arrived late on a Tuesday afternoon to a wonderful reception of homemade vanilla ice cream adorned with long, tubular blue-ish berries. This was our first introduction to honeyberries, one of the many berry varieties grown, harvested, and packaged on The Honeyberry Farm. They were delicious! That evening, we were also introduced to currants and gooseberries as well. Our duties over the next few days ranged from helping harvest, shake, and package black currants, weeding the vegetable garden, labeling jars for jellies and syrups, picking and blending honeyberry varieties for seeds, pitting tart cherries (and helping make pies), and gathering vegetables from the garden. Jason additionally helped by creating a simple trellis for tomato plants, mending a screen door, and helping Jim get an antique tractor engine running.
The work was indeed work (some made difficult with the hot temperatures and persistent mosquitoes), but what tempered this was the many things we gleaned from the experience and the newfound friends we made in Jim and Bernis. In our down time, the pair was willing to give us personal tours of Bagley, recommend recreational opportunities and sights in the area, chat about personal beliefs and goals with one another, and share meals and DESSERTS together. The value of this is so much more than we had hoped for!
Another very cool thing about our time at Honeyberry Farm, was that Bernis was keen on helping Liam and Ella enter produce, flowers, and herbs into the Clearwater County Fair. She sat down with the guide, had the kids write down items they could potentially gather from the farm (and the quantity required for judging), and patiently worked with both to get registered and their items to the fairgrounds, in their proper buildings, by the specified time. The outcome was favorable for both kiddos! When the time of judgement had passed, both Liam and Ella came away from the experience with several ribbons for their floral arrangements and fruit and berry entries. We can’t say enough thank yous to Bernis for this experience. The Clearwater Fair was well-organized, the people who volunteer their time were extremely pleasant in all of the busyness, and we enjoyed the barrel racing, animals shown, and general light-heartedness and positivity we encountered.
Our five days passed rather quickly. Jim and Bernis were very flexible and offered us more time with them and/or time to just hang out on the farm and enjoy the area. While it was quite tempting, there are places we would like to visit before the snow starts to fly, so we decided to part ways. Not, of course, without enjoying a final meal together, complete with a berry dessert. Would we work on Honeyberry Farm again? As they say in this region, “You betcha!”