Today is something a little different but still travel related I promise! I thought instead of reviewing the usual planes, accommodations etc. I’d go for an experience. WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It’s an organisation divided into two parts – hosts and volunteers. They have a network all over the world of hosts that own or run farms, woodlands, allotments etc. that are organically run. Then there are volunteers (or WWOOFers) like you and me who offer our time and services to help them out with planting, farm work, market selling, misc. different trades etc. (wow there are a lot of etc’s happening in this paragraph). In return for our time the host supplies free board, often food and of course farming knowledge. It turns out to be a great way to boost your skill set and also travel around for next to nothing.
How does it work? There are several WWOOF sites by region/country and you simply pick the one you’re interested in and sign up (just give it a Google). I think they all have a member fee to cover the upkeep but it’s minimal. Then you can start searching for farms/opportunities and shoot them messages. You have to think about what experience you’re after – animals, maybe goats specifically, cooking, gathering produce for markets, cider etc. The work varies depending on where you apply and you can negotiate time commitments and length of stay. You never formally sign a contract so if somewhere makes you uncomfortable leave, it’s all informal word contracts and based on trust/rapport. The whole process is very communicative so make sure to sell yourself as there will be plenty others fighting for the spot (cue the Rocky music). The saying ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ very much applies here.
These photos are of my friend’s farm and the typical ‘WWOOFer’ day there. You can see the fields and crops that need picking, type of meals made with the organic crops you pick, lodging in cute caravans and other conditions. Like I said every scenario will be unique but you can usually get a vibe from your email communications and also the reviews. You have to treat the initial contact similar to online dating and really go with your gut. If someone is being unresponsive or aloof maybe don’t push it and find somewhere else. From my own experiences they’ve always been positive and really rewarding. Yes there have been times the tasks have been either tedious or disgusting but I pushed through it. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty and sometimes take a back seat or bite your tongue. It’s just like any other job situation except you live there as well, so just take some extra precautions and you’ll get on fine. You have to remember that the hosts are risking it as well. You might procrastinate, get hurt, moan or bring a damper to the atmosphere. It’s a push-pull relationship and I think that’s what makes it so unique and interesting.
The pros definitely outweigh the ‘cons’. One of my friend’s Rachel, who I went round British Columbia with, WWOOFed her way up the west coast of America stopping at three different farms for a week each. She learned about different crops at each place, thus improving her knowledge, and also got to explore different cities and areas for free. You might end up making friends for life and have some amazing stories to take home. You won’t be working all the time and therefore can explore on days off or your host might even take you on day trips and show you their take on the area. A real insider’s look always beats the travel guide.
If you want to find out more about WWOOF here’s the website and of course if you have questions shoot me a comment or email and I’ll help out if I can!