Flower gardens flourish in the Mountain Area

July 28, 2010 

One local organic flower garden has caretakers that have flown in from around the world to tend it.

Three Springs Flower Garden, located in North Fork, is part of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and Organic Volunteers networks. These two international networks allow anyone interested in organic gardening to have a hands-on garden working experience in exchange for room and board.

The program at Three Springs began three years ago after Susan Joy, garden assistant, visited Hawaii where she learned about WWOOF. Within a couple months of returning, she and garden manager Kearey Allison had the program up and running.

Since then volunteers from as far as Australia and Germany have come and gone including individuals, couples and families -- about 45 people in all, including locals. Joy said people stay from one week to three months and one person even stayed for nine months.

"We meet people from all over the world," Joy said. "Many are taking a break after high school or while in college. It's a really good way of learning what young people are doing these days and they're very into the environment."

Joy said they keep in touch with their volunteers and 99% of those visiting the farm have had excellent experiences.

"Rather than going to school, you're actually out in the world doing hands-on experience," she said. "We're mostly doing flowers but are learning about food. You can smell our flowers and you're not breathing in any chemicals."

Currently two volunteers at the garden traveled quite a distance to be at Three Springs.

Marie Ohana, 26, came from Paris, France. "I worked in Paris on computers but felt it wasn't for me," Ohana said. "I didn't feel fulfilled with my job and life so I decided to quit my job, travel, and change my life. It's like a personal exploration for me."

She found out about the opportunity when she found WWOOF on the Internet. "I had a little previous experience in the South of France with honey and olive oil and since I like farming, I wanted to do more farming and be in nature," said Ohana, who plans on staying three weeks. "Every week I want to stay more."

Ohana plans to continue traveling for nine months and plans to visit Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rico. "This type of life is more for me," she said.

Brigit Anderson, 20, made her way across the U.S. from Connecticut. She found Three Springs on the WWOOF webite, which she has used for garden travel in both Montana and Kansas and now North Fork.

"I really wanted to explore my country and get back to the earth," Anderson said. "I traveled a lot when I was younger in Europe and wanted to see the U.S."

Not only is she seeing the U.S., she is also using the experience as part of her education. She attends Bates College in Maine where she is studying geology and is required to do a senior thesis. For her thesis, she is studying the impacts of climate change on high altitude agriculture and Three Springs is the perfect research area.

"Three Springs seemed the most open and I immediately could tell it was right for me," she said.

Three Springs can be found on Facebook as well as 3springs.com or wwoofusa.org or organicvolunteers.org.

Three Springs is also at the Bass Lake Farmer's Market every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. and sells flowers for weddings, restaurants and holidays.

Details: (559) 877-4634.

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