Monday, October 26, 2009

A very vogue visit to a farm

The newest highbrow getaway doesn't involve lounging on the white sands of a beach or sipping champagne atop a sky-rise; the new getaway involves hard work down on the farm. Indeed, to willingly work without pay on an organic farm is officially en vogue now that it's in Vogue.

Jane Herman, fashion writer for Vogue, stayed a week at Luna Bleu farm in South Royalton, Vermont (population 2,603), reporting on her visit in the November issue of the magazine. She found the farm via World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), a website designed to connect people interested in organic, sustainable farming with host farms that provide room and board in exchange for labor. On Herman's visit, the four "wwoofers" at Luna Bleu included a Dartmouth grad, a globe-trotter, and two New Yorkers. They spent the week harvesting greenhouse zucchini, combing bush beans, pushing wheelbarrows, weeding leeks, and sleeping in the barn.

The half page Vogue article, a mere four paragraphs, is surrounded by an eleven page fantasy farming fashion spread, full of plaid, tweed, and thermal knits with bales of hay, apple trees, and rusty tractors serving as the backdrop. So, what does one wear on a visit to the farm? Why, a Yves Saint Laurent cotton vest ($1490), DKNY wool turtleneck ($145), and Marni mohair blend pants ($1080), of course! As Vogue points out, it is "[b]etter to be a workhorse in ruffles than a show pony in something more austere."


LT said...

Haha, what a ludicrous juxtaposition! - working on a farm and sleeping in a barn in a $2700+ outfit! Of course, even when you're engaging in hard labor, you've got to look your fashionable best!

Now I know the "farm fashion" spread wasn't meant to be taken literally, but even just the suggestion is so silly. I'm surprised that an article about WWOOF even made it into Vogue, but it probably only did so because it was accompanied by the fashion spread.

aoue said...

I agree with LT — the Vogue spread does present a "ludicrous juxtaposition" and Vogue was likely more interested in a rural backdrop for its spread than WWOOF.

Interestingly, the Vogue piece notes that both of the farmers running Luna Bleu have Ivy League educations — which is not what most would expect of rural persons who operate or work on farms. While their business model and mission are certainly laudable, I wonder how authentic the "rural" experience is for their visitors, who, based on the article, seem to be privileged urbanites.

So, is this an authentically rural experience that presents visitors with an accurate picture of rural living? Or does Luna Bleu create an idealized representation of rural life — one that is inline with most urbanite's preconceptions about the "countryside," i.e., a faux-rural experience?

JPS said...

This is probably too late but just wanted to respond aoue.

I'm the recent Dartmouth grad at Luna Bleu. I'm actually an apprentice, not a WWOOFER, so I've been here for a while working, not just visiting. I grew up in an old farmhouse in VT and can tell you that with the exception of Jane and the other New Yorker (who is interested in urban farming and came to Luna Bleu to get some experience) are not at all urbanites. Tim and Suzanne certainly are smart people but this is not at all a faux-rural experience.

Taylor Call said...

What an interesting notion... have people work for free on your farm.

I am sure that there are plenty of people that work at these organic farms to gain experience so that one day they can do the same thing and live the lifestyle that they envision. However, I bet many do this because it gets them "close to nature." They then go back home and tell everyone how great it was and essentially brag about the experience for their whole lives. Fair enough, at least they contributed some labor for their stay so I guess it is a win-win.

I have known both types of people throughout my life. I have a lot of respect for the people that go all-in when trying to achieve a certain lifestyle. The ones that do it just for the experience tend to make the others look bad. There is a trend toward self-sufficiency in this country, and I am all for it. I think it is very useful to know how to grow your own crops, raise your own meat and eggs, preserve food, and build and repair buildings and equipment. You never know when these skills may come in handy (I don't necessarily mean in a post-apocalyptic way). In fact, if you go on "Groupon" or "Living Social" right now, you are almost sure to find some sort of class that will teach you how to can food, make jam, garden, or butcher.

I doubt that JPS will see this post, but I wonder how hard the volunteers actually work. I would imagine that they would put in a minimal amount of effort because they are basically free labor. Most people that have never worked with their hands do not know what a hard day's work actually is. The ones that I have worked with seem to give up almost immediately when things start getting hard. I would love to see some of the volunteers be pushed to work the same way that traditional farm workers are put to work. But I guess it probably wouldn't be as popular then.