by Andrew Martin |
While there may be some dogs on the properties you visit WWOOFING is not the kind that is typically associated with barking dogs or other canine species. A few years back now I had the good fortune to travel around New Zealand and spend a few months WWOOFING on the North Island of New Zealand.
It was an incredible experience and possibly one of the best practical educational experiences of my life. WWOOFING for the uninitiated is an acronym for Willing Workers on Organic Farms.
The simple idea behind the concept is to promote awareness of ecological farming practices by living and working on organic farms. WWOOFING also provides a cultural exchange for people of all ages and countries in a casual work / social setting. WWOOFING aims to provide volunteers with first-hand practical experience in organic and ecologically sound growing methods, to help the organic movement, and to let volunteers experience life in a rural setting or a different country.
WOOFING is a loose network of national organisations that facilitate placement of volunteers on organic farms. While there are WWOOF hosts in 99 countries around the world, no central list or organisation encompasses all WWOOF hosts. As there is no single international WWOOF membership, all recognised WWOOF country organisations strive to maintain similar standards, and work together to promote the aims of WWOOF.
How It Works
Usually you live with your host and are expected to join in and cooperate with the day to day activities. In most countries the exchange is based on 4-6 hours help-fair exchange for a full day’s food and accommodation.
You may be asked to help with a variety of tasks like sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing, making mud-bricks, wine making, cheese making and bread making. The host provides food, accommodation and opportunities to learn, in exchange for assistance with farming or gardening activities. WWOOF enables people to live and volunteer on a variety of organic properties.
The length of your stay at the farm is negotiated directly between you and your host. Most WWOOF visits are between one and two weeks, though some may be as short as two or three days or as long as six months. The first step of your WWOOFing experience is to choose your destination and join the relevant WWOOF organization.
As a member you will be able to access a database of farms in your chosen country and start making plans. If you want to have hands on experience, learn and share organic and sustainable ways of living then WWOOF might be for you. (1) It is important to note that WWOOF volunteers (‘WWOOFers’) generally do not receive any financial payments.
Why Do It?
- Get to meet a bunch of cool people from all over the world, usually like minded.
- Build long lasting relationships with like minded folks from around the globe.
- Learn heaps about organics and growing food sustainably.
- You will also get to experience eating nutrient dense healthy food (in most cases) straight from the land.
- You will learn new skills you never thought of or dreamed of doing.
- WWOOFING is relatively inexpensive. The only cost is in transport to and from each WWOOF property.
Sometimes retreats such as yoga, meditation and health spa’s offer WWOOFING. The WWOOFER will spend time each day maintaining gardens, helping with cooking and other duties in exchange for free access to and participation in courses and education.
The hosts vary from region to region and country to country, but generally speaking many WWOOF hosts practice Permaculture or Bio-dynamic growing methods or straight out organic gardening. Some hosts make a living off their land, others are homesteaders interested in self-sufficiency, some are families others are individuals. There are also cooperatives, communities and eco- villages.
Hosting WWOOFers can be hugely rewarding as you are enabling people to learn about organic growing techniques. You will also be demonstrating an alternative way of life. Many WWOOFers are so inspired by the experience that they end up changing their lifestyles and even setting up their own organic farms! As a host you are improving communication and aiding growth within the organic movement and sharing important skills and resources for the development of a more sustainable lifestyle.
Important Note: While most WWOOF hosts are great it is important to understand that each host may differ and have different expectations. That’s why it is important to engage and communicate adequately beforehand to ensure both you and the host benefit from the experience equally.
The WWOOF Map
by Andrew Martin