Searching for the simple life
An ecological farm run by a Flemish couple offers relaxation and organic meals to willing volunteers and tourists in search of a rural getaway
Back to basics
Gaume was special, they said. Where the Ardennes is a network of cosy, one-lane villages and bigger towns, in the Gaume you could walk for days without seeing cars or houses. I raised an eyebrow. Surely this was an exaggeration, impossible to find in Belgium, one of the world’s densest countries. But they assured me it was true.
It’s also the location of the Flemish-run Ferme du Bois-le-Comte organic farm and B&B. I found it late one night on the website of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), an international network connecting organic farms with eager volunteers who are willing to exchange labour for room and board. It caught my eye because despite being in Orval, as deep as one can get in Wallonia where Belgium tapers off to meet France and Luxembourg, it’s a Dutch-speaking operation.
Ferme du Bois-le-Comte is ru n by the Flemish couple Luc De Cuyper and Lieve Debert, who bought it in 1996. They own the 100-year-old farmhouse and run it with a combination of employees and volunteers, who are largely Flemish with a smattering of international WWOOFers.
Fresh air and good food
The organic farm doubles as an ecological guesthouse and course centre, offering half- and full-board to its guests from a 100% organic restaurant, supplied largely from its own garden, designed according to permaculture principles. De Cuyper and Debert bring in reputable chefs from around the world to cook up three-course vegetarian meals.
Life here is about simplicity. No internet. Hardly any mobile phone reception. Just a well-equipped room, with bed, sink and extra blankets, a clean, spacious shared bathroom, and a steady supply of hot tea throughout the day.
There are only two things indulgent about the farm: the drinkable freshness of its air, and the food. The basic accommodation (€55 per person) is half-board, with breakfast and dinner. All meals are vegetarian, usually vegan, and made with entirely organic products. On our first night, we were served a thick vegetable stew followed by an enormous plate of dhal, curried roasted parsnips as thick as drumsticks, salad, rice, broccoli and seitan.
In case – unimaginably – one plate was not enough, they even placed the rest of the food on a table in the dining hall, where one could serve oneself seconds – or thirds or fourths. Then came dessert. With stuffed bellies we waddled to our room and snuggled into our bed to read and listen to the insects chirp in the dark, ready to spend the next day putting our chauffeurs’ words to the test.