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Weed Dating: Like Speed Dating, But on Farms

Weed dating is a way for people with common interests to meet and see if there's a romantic spark. Weed dating is a way for people with common interests to meet and see if there's a romantic spark.

 

When I arrive at Shelburne Orchards, just south of Burlington, Vermont, to pick apples and find a date, the October sky opens into an icy, torrential downpour.


Thanks for coming in this weather!” bellows Sarah Heusner, an intern and event organizer for Vermont’s chapter of the nonprofit Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), as best she can above the howling wind and rumbling of the cider press. “You’re so Vermont-y!”

The petite, brown-haired Vermonter tells the assembled singles to grab a name tag and scribble down their first name followed by their favorite fruit or vegetable. “This is your veggie alias,” she explains, “so no one can stalk you.” I opt for Sara Watermelon. One young man protests that he’d like to be stalked. “OK, well, in that case,” says Heusner, “you can put your full name.”

Some are looking for love, some for friendship, and some for stalkers (hey, to each his own). This is Weed Dating—and it’s not about weed. Modeled after speed dating, where each lonely heart spends a few minutes chatting with a potential mate and then moves on to the next, using first impressions to gauge his or her interest, NOFA’s series of Weed Dating events take that phenomenon to a new—and decidedly greener—level. Now, urbanites and solitary farmhands come together on Vermont farms for a few hours to meet, scope for sparks, and do a little gardening work in the process. Donations are accepted; otherwise, the events are free.

Today, we’re here to pick “drop apples,” or fallen apples that can’t be used to make commercial cider but will be donated to local food shelters. Shelburne Orchards owner Nick Cowles, a grizzled, big-boned man with a wide grin and a huge rubber apron, steps out from behind the cider press. “One of the first times I met my wife, I pressed cider with her,” he tells us, encouragingly. His eyes twinkle. “After that, it was all over!”

A dark-haired guy in his late thirties, self-dubbed Mike Bok Choy, says this isn’t the first weed dating event he’s been to—nor the first rainy one. The first was in August in Montpelier. “We weeded parsnips in the rain and the mud. It was fun! I was ‘Basil’ last time.” No dates, though (there were only a handful of singles there to choose from).
Weed Dating is a way to find people with common interests. It’s a real lifestyle being a farmer. Finding someone who shares that is difficult.


Mike “Basil” Bok Choy has a family business raising mutton. He was soliciting information from NOFA about going organic when he saw the Weed Dating advertisement on the group’s Web site. “Being single, I thought I’d check it out,” he says. And sure enough, “It was fun meeting new people and weeding at the same time.”

The idea was the brainchild of Jean and Wendy Palthey, longtime farmers in Tunbridge, Vermont, who thought it might be nice to help their single farmhand find some local company. They contacted NOFA for help and held the first gathering on their property in July 2010. Three more events took place at farms across the state over the summer and fall, with minimal, but decidedly enthusiastic, attendance.

The events appeal to certain groups of singles, such as divorcees or isolated farm workers, who “might feel that typical dating events exclude them,” says Heusner, a recent graduate of the University of Vermont in environmental studies with a focus on sustainable food systems.

Plus, while the idea of farming combined with dating is cute (case in point: counting me, six of the 17 or so people at my session were journalists) it’s not the main takeaway. “The concept is really about strengthening community,” says Heusner. “Farms should be central axes of community. It’s where the food comes from, after all! The more events on farms, the better. Not just for singles, but for everybody.”

Farm dates do seem to be a great fit for outdoorsy Vermonters, though. “It’s hard to meet people when you’re out on your farm,” says Laura Nunziata, an organic certification assistant at Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF), the certification branch of NOFA-Vermont. (She’s happily married but helped with some of the day’s logistics.) Weed Dating is a way to “find people with common interests. It’s a real lifestyle being a farmer. Finding someone who shares that is difficult.”

So far, she says, “I don’t know of any romantic connections made, but people have met people who have common interests, and that’s good.” Turns out, she and her husband met on a farm, too. “It’s definitely possible!”

A young woman calling herself Meg Arugula agrees, as we scamper between trees, chilly hands foraging for the gnarled apples. “It’s a cool way to meet other people who like to work outside,” she says. In this kind of setting, toiling alongside a potential love interest instead of staring into half-empty wine glasses, “It’s not so awkward. There’s an ease of conversation when you’re looking at an apple.”

As Heusner puts it, “Working with the hands frees up the mouth.”

Some communities outside of Vermont are seriously considering replicating it, too. A woman from New Hampshire showed up at one event in West Rutland, specifically in order to take notes on how she might put on her own Weed Dating event—though “as you can see, it’s hardly a science,” says Heusner, gesturing toward the wet orchard and the haphazard way people are running from tree to tree. She jingles a little green cowbell, signaling that it’s time to change partners, baskets of drop apples in tow.

“This whole thing has really taken off,” says Nunziata with a laugh. “When we started it, I don’t think we expected this amount of press.”

Surrounded by almost half as many journalists as Weed Daters, I admit I feel a bit absurd. But hey, I am single.

“How long are you in town?” Mike Bok Choy asks me toward the end of the afternoon, over cups of hot cider and doughnuts. “A week,” I say, pointing out that my family lives across the lake, in New York. “Well, if you’re ever on this side,” he offers, “look me up and we’ll get a brew.”

I grin and nod. And think: probably not. Nice guy, but not as delicious as the hot spiced cider.

 

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Weed dating is a new way for singles looking for love to meet.
Last modified on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 13:56

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