Does Being An Intern At Ahimsa Acres Make Sense For You?
Ahimsa Acres accepts interns during the growing season through a program called World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms, or WWOOF for short. Detailed information on becoming a WWOOF volunteer worker at WWOOF facilities can be found on the WWOOF-USA website:
Typically, WWOOF interns at Ahimsa work 5 hours a day, usually from 8 am to 1 pm. Work is various and depends on where we are in the growing cycle. Work could involve weeding, fruit thinning, soil building, watering, brush clearing, digging, harvesting, painting, construction work, food preservation, or just about anything that is involved in keeping Ahimsa running. At its core, Ahimsa Acres is an educational center, and the intention is to help interns learn a different and more viable way of living. Afternoons and evenings are times for interns to be on their own, or to choose to participate in classes, discussions, tutorials, and videos regarding permaculture, voluntary simplicity, Buddhist meditation, sustainable living, and alternative career development. Ahimsa provides simple vegan food and primitive housing (or campsites) to interns. A normal week contains 5 working days and two days off, but variations from this can be arranged by mutual consent.
Before deciding you would like to apply to be a WWOOF intern at Ahimsa, there are some things we need to tell you about ourselves and the setup here that aren't necessarily covered in the WWOOF profile (which is also important to read) so that you can make an informed decision about whether this would work for you. After we've told you about ourselves, if you are still interested in being an intern, we will want to ask you some questions about yourself that will help reveal whether Ahimsa is a good fit for you.
Ahimsa Acres, is under the co-direction of Dale Lugenbehl and Sandy Aldridge. The site is almost 8 acres in total and the bulk of it is left in woods; what we actively manage for food production is probably not much more than ½ acre, although it is spread out over several small orchards and individual gardening plots. We're attempting to make use of as many permaculture principles as we can effectively-the major actual inputs being human labor and water (when it gets hot).
Ahimsa began accepting interns in 2011 and it has been quite an interesting and useful learning experience for us. What we want is a) to be helping people to develop a different vision of what life can be and b) aiding them in making that a reality in their own lives along with c) learning some hands-on skills that (we think) are going to be quite necessary in upcoming years. On a personal level, we also find this sort of life to be quite fulfilling and much more pleasant, as well as less destructive, than what the mainstream is doing (we would say mainstream America but in no way is it limited to the US any more-if it ever really was.).
Other things to consider are that we are 5 miles from the nearest town (Cottage Grove), 20 or more miles from Eugene (although there is a bus between the two), have only intermittent wireless internet access and no TV. There are other people living on this hillside-and even some others interested in organic farming or gardening fairly nearby.
Now on to the questions that we have for everyone who has an interest in interning here…
- A good bit of the work that will be available will require a certain level of physical fitness. Are you able to do brush clearing and manual labor in connection with building projects as well as gardening? In the early spring there are a number of apples trees that need fruit thinning, and in the fall they need picking. Are you ok working on orchard ladders (they are 6 to 8 feet tall)?
- Do you get poison oak? Whether you do or do not get poison oak, it is critical to follow poison oak safety protocol to prevent other people from being contaminated. Are you willing to stay in designated areas and let us know immediately if you have been exposed so that decontamination procedures can be followed? If you are mindful about what you are doing, it is relatively easy to avoid having a poison oak episode yourself or creating a problem for others.
- What gardening and/or orcharding skills or knowledge do you have? Please be specific.
- We typically work early in the day. Are you okay with being up before 7?
- Also, a certain amount of the work will be food storage preparation. We are quite meticulous about how this is done, and need to know that you are willing to be equally meticulous if involved in this work. This is necessary for food safety reasons.
- Most importantly, what specifically attracts you to Ahimsa Acres? What, in our description, is it that interests you? What would you like to gain from your experience with us?
- What is your educational background? Do you have future educational goals? Please be very specific (degrees, programs, majors, schools attended).
- What is your main passion (or passions) in life?
- At the end of your life, what would you like your main contribution to have been to the world we live in?
- Do you have medical insurance if you should happen to become ill while you are here?
- Do you have medical insurance if you should happen to become ill while you are here?
- What is your age?
This information will provide an excellent starting place for determining if you are a good fit for Ahimsa and if Ahimsa is a good fit for you. Please ask us anything that comes up for you. We will look forward to hearing from you.
Comments from Previous Interns
October 2016 by Grace Wilson, North Carolina
"As my first WWOOF experience comes to a close, I am truly left speechless and humbled. Words cannot come close to describing my experience with Dale and Sandy. By watching them treat the earth and each other with such deep compassion, I have learned so many things about the way that I want to live my life. They rely solely on the food they organically grow and power they produce to live a simple, truly sustainable lifestyle 365 days a year. We made delicious plant-based meals everyday and to say that my body was appreciative would be an understatement. I felt an incredible sense of balance spiritually, physically, and emotionally while I was at Ahimsa. Dale and Sandy gave me unforgettable guidance in all aspects of their daily life. They taught me things like how to pick blackberries and cut wood, while also teaching me to be present in each moment. Not only are they conscious of their carbon footprint, they are completely aware of the power they possess as human beings. Daily meditations & discussions along with spending each morning gardening, harvesting, and loving nature around us gave me such an empowering perspective. I look forward to making conscious changes in my daily life and working hard to get to their level. I am forever grateful for Ahimsa Acres."
October 2016 by Alex Hasbach, Oregon
"Just visited Ahimsa Acres for the day, but came away with so much appreciation for what Sandy and Dale are doing. This is a great place for reflection, as well as learning about many aspects of homesteading and treading lightly on the planet. Thank you Sandy and Dale for your openness and generosity!"
October 2015 by Emily Pappas, Illinois
"I could not be more grateful for the time I got to spend on Dale and Sandy's wonderful homestead. As a vegan, it does not get any better than this place! I stayed in their lovely, cozy little cabin for two weeks, complete with a small kitchen, a sawdust composting toilet, and a beautiful wood burning stove. I learned so much from them, and about myself, during my stay. The majority of my early Autumn stay was spent picking delicious apples from their trees, drying them in their dehydrator (their dried fruit is to die for!), putting various gardens to bed, picking raspberries and tomatoes, building compost piles, and harvesting garlic. Dale & Sandy are so inspiring, and are fully committed to treading lightly on this planet and living in harmony with nature and all of its beings. I was able to participate in their monthly Mindfulness Sunday session, and Dale guided me through meditation each night before dinner, which I really appreciated and enjoyed. Their food was simple but delicious, and they were so full of knowledge and advice about living sustainably and in alignment with their values of compassion and health. Thank you so much, Dale and Sandy."
July 2015 by Laura Fleig, California
"I spent 6 days at Ahimsa Acres with Dale & Sandy, and it is an experience I will not soon forget. From my experience, Dale & Sandy are warm, generous, understanding people who live simply but with clear intentions. They are rare examples of not only having strong values and principles, but adhering to them. It was inspiring to see people living in a way that aligned with their values instead of suffering due to the dissonance between what one believes life should be like and what is the reality. I worked with Sandy in the gardens daily--picking berries, pulling weeds, laying mulch, planting beans, and harvesting garlic. I worked for approximately 5 hours a day, and although the work was physically strenuous at times, it was not an unreasonable amount for what I received in return. Sandy took the time to explain the reasons behind doing tasks a certain way and was open to answering any questions I had about the property and the gardens. I also spent the hot afternoons swimming with Sandy in the serene pond on their property, and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her better; she is living proof that age is truly just a number when you live a healthy, mindful lifestyle (Dale is, too!) I mostly spent time with Dale during meals and meditations which he graciously guided me through. We had many conversations about the intentions and philosophies behind living a sustainable, mindful, and vegan lifestyle. Dale & Sandy both asked me thoughtful questions which helped me think about problems in my life in new ways, and they were always kind and gentle in their asking. They included me in a meditation group which they hosted and I always felt free to communicate with them about anything that was on my mind. The food they provided me with was fresh and plenty--the majority of it came right from their garden, and although it was simple, both my body and mind felt well nourished. I strongly encourage anyone who is open-minded and seeking ways to live in better alignment with their values to spend time at Ahimsa Acres. I am filled with gratitude for the time I spent there and know it will serve me for years to come."
October 2014 by Aline Prentice, California
"Dale and Sandy are fantastic hosts, and I had a fabulous experience at Ahimsa Acres! They have a beautiful farm with a variety of fruits and vegetables, and they built their lovely house mostly themselves. I stayed in the cabin which they are completing, it was very private and comfortable. I very much enjoyed connecting with Dale and Sandy; they are quite inspiring in how they live in alignment with their values and in a sustainable way as much as possible. We shared lunch and dinner together, and they were generous in sharing their knowledge and wisdom and helping me in my own journey towards living a more sustainable and Dharma-based lifestyle. They care about making WWOOfing a positive learning experience and are very open to questions, feedback, and sharing. I also appreciated that beyond the day-to-day farming work, they hold a larger vision of sustainable living and culture - and connecting spiritual values with everyday life. Highly recommended!"
February 2013 by James Stake, Minnesota
"I am forever grateful to Dale and Sandy for the two weeks I spent at Ahimsa Acres. I came at a time of my life where the thought of continuing the slog of medical training, living in a gigantic city, and being a mindless consumer just wasn't gelling with me anymore. I felt that this life is too precious to waste being caught up in my own concerns and needs, without paying heed to the harm and benefit I was having on the whole. I also simply wanted to learn more about organic farming, cooking, and to deepen a very new interest in Buddhism. I am sure Ahimsa Acres is about the only place on earth where someone can grow in all these arenas.
Dale and Sandy are totally committed to what they are doing - as educators and examples of ethical, essentially zero waste living in a highly wasteful, unethical age - and clearly live exactly in accordance with their values. It is very easy to think and talk about changing your life but far more difficult to act. Dale and Sandy have acted. They have catalyzed action on my part. And I hope many more people are inspired to do the same. I only hope I was able to help them out a little with my novice efforts during my two week stay. Thank you, Dale and Sandy, for who you are and what you are doing!"
July 2012 by Maggie Griesmer and Cara Corcoran, Massachusetts
"Dale and Sandy are one-of-a-kind, and Cara and I feel truly grateful for the time we spent with them, and all that they taught us during our one-month stay. Their dedication to healthy, humane, sustainable living is inspirational and a model for others. Many people have strong beliefs, but may not live by them; Dale and Sandy do. They believe in minimizing harm and suffering for all beings on Earth, and this is seen in how they grow food and in every other facet of their daily lives.
We were expecting a "farm", but upon meeting Sandy and Dale, we were informed that their operation is a homestead. That being said, they grow a remarkable variety and abundance of foods, much of which they give to neighbors and friends, as excess waste is avoided at Ahimsa Acres.
One main theme that we took away from our time with Dale and Sandy was that the less one requires to be happy, the easier it is to achieve that goal. And we certainly felt the impact of this lesson; Cara and I both agreed that our stay at Ahimsa Acres was one of the happiest times of our lives.
When we arrived, Dale let us know that Vipassana meditation was an optional activity should we show interest. Excited to learn something new, Cara and I began meditating with Dale every day. We remember these times quite fondly. Not only did the daily meditation and Zen stories open us to understanding ourselves more, they also taught us valuable life skills for living happier, simpler, stress-free lives. Thanks to Dale's guidance, we now have the tools to minimize our own suffering, which we learned, is often self-induced.
We came to Ahimsa Acres expecting to learn how to grow fruits and vegetables. Sandy provided us with a wealth of information about the different plants growing on their property, and Cara and I relished our daily "show and tells" with her. We came back from this experience with that knowledge, but so much more than we had ever expected. We will always look back on this great opportunity with great nostalgia and love. Sandy and Dale are wonderful, compassionate, inspirational people, and we cannot wait to visit them again someday. Ahimsa Acres truly changed our lives for the better, and we cannot be more grateful for that. Thank you Sandy and Dale."
July 2011 by David Morales, New Jersey
"I just returned from a two week stint at Ahimsa Acres and I can't even really put into words to describe my experience. I didn't think people like Sandy and Dale existed but they do and I'm glad for that. First and most important, communication at this farm was TOP NOTCH! I was starting to lose faith in WWOOFing and Sandy and Dale have restored my faith in it among other aspects of living. The work was plentiful but grounding. I will be keeping in touch with Sandy and Dale and I hope to come back to this farm very soon. I was their first WWOOFer and they were uncertain about how things would work out but they took really good care of me and I can't express how grateful I am for that. I highly recommend this farm. And please respect what they're trying to do. It's very important work that's highly inspiring."