Benjamin Möeller and James Keenan pause for a photo at Keenan Family Farms. Benjamin and spouse Lea Möeller were helping out on the farm in exchange for food and lodging. The Keenans connected with them through Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, Canada. (Keenan Family Farms photo)

Benjamin Möeller and James Keenan pause for a photo at Keenan Family Farms. Benjamin and spouse Lea Möeller were helping out on the farm in exchange for food and lodging. The Keenans connected with them through Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, Canada. (Keenan Family Farms photo)

International travellers become part of the family at Salmon Arm farm

James and Chelsea Keenan welcome assistance through program that links visitors to farmers

By Barb Brouwer

New friendships were cultivated between Canadian farmers and international travellers.

Chelsea and James Keenan own a 35-acre farm south of Salmon Arm where they specialize in pasture-raised pigs and free-range laying hens.

Like most farmers, the parents of five young children have more chores than time, so they advertised on Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, Canada.

WWOOF Canada is part of a worldwide effort to link visitors with organic farmers, promote an educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices.

Lea and Benjamin Möeller arrived in Canada from Germany in February, travelled around Eastern Canada and worked on two farms before arriving at Keenan Family Farms on May 24.

Lea, 27, is a nutritional scientist and 28-year-old Benjamin teaches biology and chemistry. Describing themselves as spontaneous, the pair quit their jobs and apartment in favour of exploring the world

“Canada was the first country to open after COVID and we have friends here who told us about the beauty of the country,” said Ben. “Travelling to organic farms across the country is one of the best ways to get to know the Canadian lifestyle, meet new people and see what happens behind the scenes.”

In exchange for food and lodging, Ben and Lea helped the Keenans with several farm chores, including building a large barn, washing eggs for market, labelling meats and preparing food for lunch and dinner.

“They have been a godsend for us,” said Chelsea enthusiastically, noting the couple also helped with harrowing and seeding. “It helped tie up some loose ends – extra medium priorities that needed to get done but we haven’t got to them because there are more important things to do.”

Chelsea is equally enthusiastic about the relationship that developed between the couple and her family.

“Ben helped fix one of the kid’s dirt bikes, we learned how to count to 10 in German, we taught them how to play crib and shared family time around a fire at night,” said Chelsea. “International travel is not in our future, so it’s a great way to learn about and understand different cultures.

“They basically became part of the family.”

With two days remaining in their stay, Ben and Lea were both committed to getting as much done before moving on to a house-sitting job in Victoria.

“The family and kids are lovely, so it’s going to be hard to leave,” said Lea, pointing out that while they don’t know where they will live or work when they return to Germany in the fall, they are thinking that a bit of land and a vegetable garden might a priority.

Pleased with the success of their first WWOOFer experience, Chelsea said a 21-year-old man from France is looking to improve his English and will stay with the family for seven weeks beginning in July.

The Keenans had to provide background information to be approved hosts and were able to see reviews provided by owners of the other two farms prior to the Möeller’s arrival.

“You take your chances with work ethic,” Chelsea said, noting Ben and Lea were eager and happy to work. “They will get a good review from us too.”

While not certified organic, Chelsea said Keenan animals are pasture-raised and given non-GMO feed that does not contain corn or soy. Their product is available at Salmon Arm’s Saturday downtown farmers market or online at keenanfamilyfarms.ca.

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