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MORAN: Working and eating my way across Spain

November 24, 2016 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


I am wrapping up the first week of a 108 day trip in Spain. As a producer of seasonal food in the Okanagan Valley, winter is a great time to get away. However, I cannot afford conventional travel for this amount of time, or even a few weeks. That is why I am WWOOFing.

Willing Workers On Organic Farms is a program where labour is exchanged for room and board on organic farms. It is an active program across North America and Europe, as well as many other parts of the world.

My trip will be starting in the north of Spain and I will take trains along the Mediterranean coast heading south, visiting farms for one or two weeks at a time as I go.

After a brief tour of Barcelona, I have arrived at my first host farm. The farm is situated in Beguda, a small village on the edge of the National Volcanic Park in Catalonia. We are in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains bordering France. Joan and Judy (my hosts and the owners/residents of the small farm) sell their produce every Saturday at the farmers market in the nearest city, as well as running a bed and breakfast, and guiding tourists for hikes and picnics in the surrounding volcanic region. Their website is www.catalonianpathways.com.

Our first two days of work have been spent renovating an old stone building that will be the new hen house. Joan does not speak English, and I do not speak Spanish. Fortunately we are all very patient, and with a lot of hand gestures work goes on with only a few minor hiccups. In my spare time I am hiking the surrounding hills on the camino, a 2500 kilometre network of marked trails going from the mountains to the sea.

This trip is also a great opportunity for me to do some personal foraging. Normally I would be picking for B.C. chefs and markets, but now it is just for me and my hosts. The farm is loaded with edible wild greens that can make a very nice salad. Since I would typically only have access to this abundance in the spring I am eating as much as I can.

Even in this food-rich part of the world, the wild plants are the healthiest accessible foods. This is also the best region in the province of Catalonia to harvest wild mushrooms. In Kelowna, being a mushroom picker is a very unusual career choice. Here I fit right in.

— Scott Moran is a local forager discovering his own path to food freedom


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