One way to travel the world and save on food and accommodation and learn about organic farming is to WWOOF. That’s right, WWOOF is an exchange program in 120 or so countries. In exchange for about 4-6 hours of volunteer work a day on an organic farm your host will provide you with food and accommodation and knowledge of their farming methods. Sound interesting, well read on and find out how you can WWOOF your way around the world.
About WWOOF and its Beginnings
WWOOF was founded in 1970s in the UK by a lady named Sue Coppard. She had begun volunteering on farms on the weekends. Soon other people started doing this too and so it was decided to start WWOOF to link organic farms needing some help with volunteers who wanted to learn about farming methods and receive free food accommodation. The acronym WWOOF originally stood for Working Weekends on Organic Farms because that is how it started. As it has grown, the acronym has morphed to being called Willing Workers on Organic Farms or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
How does WWOOF Work
In exchange for your willingness to work, you’ll receive food, somewhere to sleep, first-hand knowledge of agricultural methods and experience your host’s way of life. And that way of life can be different in each country. The usual hours worked are between 4-6 hours per day with a maximum of 38 hours over 7 days. And accommodation you will stay can vary to having your own room in the host’s home or a private area on the host’s property.
Where can I WWOOF
There are around 120 countries that have WWOOF programs. Great news, being able to experience WWOOFing in a variety of countries will let you discover how the locals live – what a great cultural experience!
Read More: WWOOF Your Way Around Australia
Frequently Asked Questions about WWOOF
There are some frequently asked questions about WWOOF such as do I need a visa? Is there an age limit? What about insurance, am I covered if I get hurt or sick? How long can I stay? All these questions and more are answered on the International WWOOF website www.wwoof.net and if you have specific questions relating to a certain country visit the related website located at www.wwoof.net/#destination.
But to answer a couple of the questions, you don’t need a specific visa to WWOOF but you will require a visa for the specific country you have chosen to WWOOF in. As there is no exchange of money for your work you usually need a tourist visa. However, check this with the co-ordinator of the county scheme. Also, there is no age limit – this is great news if you don’t qualify for a working holiday visa. WWOOFing will allow you to stay for an extended stay – or as long as the tourist visa is. Your length of stay will vary. It could be for a weekend to a few weeks however, the length of your stay is by mutual negotiation with your host. And if you are thinking of purchasing insurance request one that will cover volunteering on a farm.
Work you can do
Work is varied and will depend on the farm you choose or request to volunteer on. These can include, but are not limited to: Vineyard Operators, Coffee Producers, Tea Tree Farms, Eucalyptus Oil Distillery, Oyster Farm, Pearl Farmers, Cattle Stations, Hobby Farmers, Butterfly Farms, Animal Rescue, Herb Specialists, Dairy Farmers, Bio Dynamic Farmers, Garlic Farmers and Agro Forestry. So you could be milking cows, tending to fruit and vegetables, pulling in fishing nets, rounding up cattle, bottle feeding baby animals, learning to be around farm animals, driving farm equipment, composting, mending fences, preserving fruits and vegetables, making yoghurt – the opportunities are endless. Duties should be confirmed between you and your host before you decide to volunteer there.
Advantages to being a WWOOFer
There are a number of advantages to being a WOOFer and they include:
- Learning first-hand from Host Farmers about organic farming, permaculture and bio-dynamic farming techniques.
- Know Hosts have agreed to WWOOF guidelines ensuring your safety.
- Learn new skills. These could be milking a cow to growing organic vegetables.
- When you volunteer you live with the host and experience life with your host.
- It is a cheap way to travel the world as your accommodation and food are included in exchange for your work. However, as you are living with your hosts it is expected that you will help with preparing the meals and cleaning up afterwards. It should be remembered that your WWOOF home is not a hotel and your hosts are not there to clean up after you or slave over your whims.
- Farms are located all over the world, in some 120 countries so you can experience different areas.
How to become a WWOOFer
To become a WWOOFer you will need to follow 3 steps. Firstly choose your destination – and there are 120 countries to choose from. Secondly register for a 12 month membership of the country you are planning to WWOOF in. Membership provides exclusive access to the online directory of organic farm hosts, and other volunteers. Thirdly, after purchasing your membership you can go online and peruse the directory of organic farm hosts, contact one or two in the area you wish to experience WWOOFing and voila, your life as a WWOOFer begins.
How to Become a Host
If you own some land and need some help consider becoming a WWOOF Host. Being a host means you have access to volunteers who wish to learn about the farming that you are doing. To become a WWOOF host you will need to apply for a membership. Once you have this you can post on the WWOOF website that you are looking for volunteers and can contact potential WWOOF volunteers.
Useful Items To Take WWOOFing
- sleeping bag
- toiletries/basic first aids
- sturdy shoes
- warm and waterproof clothing
- old clothes for working
- tidy clothes for socializing
- flashlight and batteries
- bug repellent
- sunhat and sunscreen
- drink bottle
- mobile phone
If volunteering on an organic farm sounds of interest, and even if it doesn’t it is a unique option to experience as you travel, and work, the world or your own country. Please visit the WWOOF website www.wwoof.net for more details and contacts to individual country WWOOF programs.