Known as the "forest village," a farm in the İzmit district of northwestern Turkey's Kocaeli welcomes tourists who are interested in ecological agriculture.
While helping with the daily chores of the farm, the tourists also enjoy spending time in nature and find time to relax.
After arriving in İzmit, the tourists head to the farm, located some 25 kilometers away from the district center. The tourists than gear up for the volunteer farm work as a part of a program introduced by the Buğday Supporting Ecological Living Association.
The farm and its owner Burak Alsan has been welcoming ecological agriculture volunteers from around the world since last year. So far, the farm welcomed a total of 35 foreign volunteers and 15 local volunteers. "People are coming to the farm from countries I have not even heard of before," said Burak Alsan.
He added that volunteer farm work brings people of all background and is very popular. "People usually choose our farm because it is close to Istanbul. Volunteers work with the soil and care for the animals. We are the only ecological farm in the area. The tourists enjoy farm work while learning more about how to do ecological agriculture. They also show us fragments of their culture." The tourists do not pay for accommodation and food. All the expenses are covered by the farm in exchange for their work. A usual workday starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. in the afternoon. The tourists have time to explore the area in their spare time. Twenty-five-year-old American tourist Austen Garmon is one of the volunteers working at the farm. He is an international agriculture graduate and uses his experience in the farm in his academic career.
Another American Wynn Romere, 37, said he is interested in different agriculture styles and came to Turkey to learn more things about ecological agriculture. He admired the nature of the farm as well as the hospitality of their hosts. "I have learned so much about vegetables that are grown here. Also, women here have incredible cooking abilities. I have learned a few tricks."