I spend a week and a half on the organic farmstay in Kerpe, between the town of Kandıra and the Black Sea. There’s a range of volunteers from all over the world; from Germany, Singapore, the US, Ukraine, France and Japan. The mix of Turkish family members, workers and international helpers creates a unique mix. I’ve never been to a place like this before – it’s the first time I’ve volunteered on a farm outside Europe. The work is quite relaxed and the other helpers are good craic as we pick tomatoes, peppers, beans, cape gooseberries, chillies and do other jobs around the farm.
Despite living in Haringey, North London for over a year (where there’s a large Turkish community) I’ve never personally known any Turkish people. I’ve only heard good things from others about their openness and generosity. While becoming familiar with their ways, I’m not disappointed; they’re an intriguing mix of European and Middle Eastern. We’re taken on several road trips including to the nearest city of Izmit and the Black Sea.
One Sunday, we’re taken to the picturesque village of Şile where a seed bartering festival is taking place. Stalls line the small streets with fresh organic produce and people come from all around the area to trade local varieties of seeds. With
the devil Monsanto knocking on the door of Turkey and the declining bio-diversity (as with most places), such efforts to keep alive the region’s historical seed varieties are essential. There should be an event like this in every region, to promote awareness and encourage cooperation between organic farmers of all types.
For the most part, I enjoy communal living; you get to know many people in a short space of time. Many of my fellow helpers are also heading East and we agree to meet up further along the way. Yet again, I’ve become comfortable in one place and leaving to hit the road is difficult. For about 5 days I can’t for the life of me concentrate on organising my next move or much else; there are too many distractions and too many options. After a day of torrential rain with no end in sight I decide it best not to hitch; I take the easier option of getting a night bus to Cappadocia in Central Anatolia.