A Guide to WWOOFing
What is WWOOFing?
‘WWOOF’ stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
WWOOFing allows you to go and work on a farm as a volunteer for relatively little expense on your part, meaning it’s a great way to see the world on a shoestring budget.
WWOOF programs can last for days, weeks, months or even a whole season, depending on your preference and the needs of the farm.
Over sixty different countries take part in the WWOOF program, and its popularity is growing as more and more people seek a change from their everyday lives.
Note that it is often the volunteer’s responsibility to negotiate with the host how long they’ll stay for, how long they’ll work each day and what they’ll get in return. A typical WWOOF program would see volunteers working for half a day (around four hours) in exchange for room and board.
Depending on the host, rooms can range from a private log cabin to a tent in the woods.
Who is WWOOFing For?
Obviously, WWOOFing isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for an adventure on a tight budget, would like to meet local people from a different area, experience a different culture and be amongst nature, WWOOFing might just be for you.
WWOOFing programs will often require you do some form of manual labor – whether it’s picking olives, milking cows or whatever, if you can’t see yourself waking up early every morning, heading out into the beating sun and putting in a shift, WWOOFing might not be for you.
WWOOFing is great for couples you want to volunteer together, as a lot of hosts will actually give you some kind of discount if there’s two of you.
If you have children of pets that you want to bring with you, it’s wise to ask the host before you bring them along as some will allow them and some won’t.
How to Get Started
To get started, head over to www.wwoof.org and sign up. Most countries that participate in the WWOOF program (e.g. the UK, Australia, Canada, etc.) have their own website that you’ll need to sign up to individually if you wish to volunteer there. These can all be found by going through the main WWOOF site.
The cost of joining each of these separate organizations/sites will depend on the country, and can be as much as $50 (but usually isn’t). This is purely for administration, and keeps the organization going.
Once you’re a member, you’ll be sent a booklet with a list of potential hosts (and the relevant email addresses/phone numbers you’ll need to get in touch).
Why WWOOF Hosts Aren’t All Organic Farms
What technically qualifies as a WWOOF host these days has become a little broader. For example, hiding in the WWOOF listings are hostels (that require you people to help with cleaning and running the desk), sustainable living communities (who require people for a whole range of tasks), restaurants and more.
In addition to this, even if something is listed as a ‘farm’, there is a whole range of things that come under that umbrella. For example, an organic vegetable farm is going to be quite different from a cattle farm or a butterfly farm.
Choose your farm based on your likes/interests – There are so many different kinds of farms (that do different things) so it’s a good idea to pick one that deals in something you’re interested in (or that doesn’t deal in something you don’t like). For example, if you can’t stand animals, pick a farm that only grows fruit or vegetables. Likewise, if you’ve always wanted to milk a cow, find a farm that has cows. Simple!
Clarify what is expected of you (with your host) before you leave – Before you set to work on a farm, it’s important you and your host both understand exactly what kind of work you’ll be doing, how long you’re expected to work per day (note that what a “half-a-day” means can differ drastically between hosts), how many days per week you’re expected to work, what meals will be included (if any), how much free time you’ll have (to go and do what you want) and where you’ll be sleeping. It is important to clarify this before you get there, so that neither party is unpleasantly surprised.
Find out what there is for you to do in your spare time – Spending time in nature, away from the stresses of city life can be incredibly peaceful and relaxing, but if you’re doing it for months on end it might get a bit boring. During your time on the farm, you’ll have some spare time to go off and do whatever it is you want. Make sure there’s something worth doing (whether it’s going to the beach, fishing, hiking, going into the local town, etc.)
Ideally, choose a host that takes on multiple WWOOFers – Providing you enjoy the company of other like-minded people, it’s a good idea to find out if you’ll be spending your time with other WWOOFers (or at the very least, if there will be other WWOOFers working in the area that you can hang out with on you time off). Some hosts will employ several WWOOFers at once, meaning there will be other people to can make friends with.
Deciding when to go – Note that as the seasons of the year change, so does the type of work required on farms. For example, at the start of the season most farms will planting and sewing seeds, whereas at the end of the season they’ll be harvesting what those seeds have become.
A few items you should to bring – Anyone who goes WWOOFing should bring with them a good pair work gloves, old clothes and shoes that you can work in (that you don’t mind getting dirty) and a sun hat and sunscreen (as you’ll most likely be outside in the sun for hours on end).
Plan in advance and act quickly – If you’re scrolling through the WWOOF listings and you find one that sounds fantastic, the chances are you won’t be the only one who thinks so. If you find something you like and you’re all ready to do it, don’t hesitate and wait around for someone else to snatch it from under your nose.
It should be noted that although WWOOF is the best known (and most popular) organization that offers farm work to volunteers, it is not the only one:
- Idealist.org has a list of volunteer opportunities and internships in dozens of countries around the world. Their site is very well laid out, and searching for a position (based on various criteria) is easy to do.
- TransitionsAbroad.com is another site worth checking out. Although they’re mostly centered around helping people move to another country and find permanent jobs abroad, the do have a section for finding short-term farm/agriculture jobs abroad.
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