I'm a freelance writer based in Perth, Western Australia, who enjoys writing about the things I love: travel, nature-based activities, the arts, spirituality and creative, fun activities for children.
Published May 15th 2013
Enjoy a farm-stay holiday without the hefty price
Situated amongst the green rolling hills of Murwillumbah's hinterland, New Govardhana Hare Krishna farm is an organic growers' paradise. With rich volcanic soil and a temperate climate, a wide range of fruits and vegetables can be grown all year round, making it a popular destination for organic gardeners and all kinds of sustainable living enthusiasts.
New Govardhana is a beautiful organic farm situated in the northern New South Wales hinterland.
As well as being a community based on spiritual principles, New Govardhan is also a member of the WWOOFS network, which facilitates working farm-stays within Australia and overseas. The acronym WWOOFs stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, which pretty much sums up the group's ethos. Actively promoting organic farming methods to the wider community, farms in the WWOOFs network provide accommodation and food for guests in return for a pre-arranged number of hours (usually between four and six) of work a day.
WWOOFers tending the gardens at New Govardhana
On New Govardhana this work is usually in the extensive vegetable gardens, but often includes a range of other activities such as fruit-picking, making traditional Indian garlands out of flowers grown on the property, cutting up vegies for the weekly community feast or helping with festival decorations. The abilities and inclination of guests are always taken into account.
Catching a ride to the vegie gardens.
While most farms in the WWOOF network can only take a couple of guests at a time, New Govardhana has created a special 'WWOOFERs' Village', which is capable of accommodating up to thirty guests. When I stayed there late last year, I was completely charmed. Situated in a tranquil valley surrounded by farmland and rainforest-clad mountains, it's one of the loveliest places I've ever been to and the facilities provided for WWOOFers was simple, but very comfortable. As a nature enthusiast, I'd always wanted to have a farm-stay holiday. However, the costs have always stopped me from booking one, so when I heard about WWOOFing and the New Govardhana farm from some friends, I jumped at the chance to check it out.
Accommodation is in small but comfortable guesthouse rooms with other WWOOFers. Bathroom facilities are shared, and there is a communal kitchen if you want to cook your own meals. However, most guests prefer to have the yummy communal meals up the hill at the temple, which generally includes rice, a vegetarian curry, dal and some sweets.
The simple but cosy WWOOFer accommodation at New Govardhana.
If guests are interested they're welcome to attend the spiritual program which is held at the temple each morning but there is no obligation, and most are quite happy simply working in the gardens and hanging out with the other WWOOFers. To kick-start your day, there's also an optional yoga and meditation class held close to the guest accommodation, which I strongly recommend. It's a beginner's class so not too stressful for those who aren't experienced yoga practitioners, and it finishes with small kirtan, during which ancient spiritual mantras are sung to the accompaniment of the guitar and harmonium. Immediately afterwards at around 6.30 or 7.00am, everyone heads off to the paddocks to start work. Although this may seem outrageously early, it's definitely worth the effort as the countryside is breathtakingly beautiful at this time of the day. It's absolutely magical watching the sun rise over the rainforested mountains and the mist gradually disappearing from the valleys as the day gets warmer. The early start is also welcome as the weather can get very hot during the day, especially during summer. Therefore, outdoor work is usually limited to cooler times of the day. After working, most WWOOFers spend the remainder of their day swimming in the river, exploring the local national parks or travelling to the Gold Coast for a few hours, which is just 45 minutes further up the coast.
A WWOOFing retreat on New Govardhana will appeal to anyone with an interest in organic growing, self-sufficiency, nature, yoga, meditation and Eastern philosophy. It's a wonderful experience, and many guests end up staying much longer than they originally planned. Although the majority are young Australian and international backpackers, WWOOFers come from all walks of life, and the farm also gets many weekend visits from local students and workers wanting to escape the city for a few days. Grey nomads also pop in from time to time, as do young families during the school holidays. All that is asked is that visitors adhere to the WWOOFing guidelines and observe the spiritual principles of the Hare Krishna people during their stay: no meat-eating, no intoxication of any kind (including tobacco), no gambling and no casual sex.
To find out more about Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF), take a look at their website. Membership, which includes insurance, is just $65.00. To find out more about WWOOFing at New Govardhana, this website will tell you more or call 0401 225 621 for more information.