The Saffron Farm

Trip Start Aug 14, 2013
Trip End Apr 01, 2014

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Flag of Italy  , Marche,
Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It's 6:15 am and the alarm goes off, insisting we wake up, it's time to go to work.  Saffron is the boss around here and it will not wait.  The best time to pick the tiny purple flower is first thing in the morning when it is closed up tight, like an umbrella just waiting to be unfurled.

Saffron is particular about the weather, the days can't get too hot and the nights have to be just the right temperature.  The first few days at the farm the harvest was only 50 to 200 flowers, then one day we woke up to rows of thousands of purple flowers standing at attention, like little soldiers, waiting for us to pick them.

Remember, the flowers are only a few inches high  so to say there is some bending involved is an understatement.  I have a number of picking poses in my repertoire, there is the bending over at the waist, the partial squat, the full squat, the combo crab walk squat and last but not least the lunge to the left and lunge to the right.  A few hours later the baskets of flowers are full, we have breakfast, and it's time to go to the lab and start pulling out the stigmas.

Let me back up, the people here are the best part of this workaway.  We have Casper, Anne, Mels and Fillipa, or as I call them, the Saffron Family.  Mels is a typical five year old boy, full of energy and mischief. Fillipa is blonde, cute and surprises you with her husky laugh full of gusto. Casper and Anne are the force behind the operation.  They left Holland about three years ago to get away from city life and get closer to nature.  They decided to grow saffron because they didn't need multiple acres of land to do so.  Joining them to help with the harvest are Anne's parents, Joke (Yoka) and Jerold (Herold).  

The rest of the team are here from all over the world, Australia, Germany, the UK, assorted locations in the US, Holland and Ireland.  As people leave new people arrive, it's like a merry-go-round of accents and personalities.  As soon as someone arrives the questions begin, where are you from, how long have you been traveling, where have you visited, what is your next destination, and so forth and so on. 

All of the volunteers here are younger. There are those traveling before going to university, those travelling after university, and then there's us.  Traveling before or after going to school is called the Gap Year, Patrick and I are taking our Gap Year a little late, but better late then never! 

Back to the saffron, after breakfast we go to the lab and start removing the stigmas from the flowers. There are three of them per flower and they are the saffron.  The key is to pinch off the stigmas where they turn a bright red, the yellow and orange portion of the stigma is not needed. The red is what makes the saffron the highest quality there is.  This causes our fingers to rapidly become a lovely shade of yellow, but no worries it washes out.  As we sit and work, conversations about anything and everything ebb and flow, there is music playing in the background, sometimes there are sing alongs and other times there is silence, sometimes there are podcasts of TED talks that cause more discussions.  But in the end there is always a feeling of being useful and productive and it is a great feeling.  

 We were at the farm for three weeks, the longest we've stayed anywhere in our travels, and it felt good to settle in and be part of a family.  When we left it was with mixed emotions, looking forward to the next adventure but with some sadness to leave such a great group of people behind.  In the end, we will look back on this experience with much satisfaction and hopefully we will be able reconnect with some of the amazing people from the saffron farm.    

Patrick has lots of great photos on his blogs so be sure to check them out.


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Mark McMahon on

This is one great trip you guys are having. Thanks for sharing.
Brother Mark

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