I reckon most people have heard of WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) before. Basically, it’s a network of organisations that links volunteers with organic farms – in return for your work, hosts offer food and accommodation as well as the opportunity to learn about their lifestyle.
When you register with a national WWOOF organisation (of the country you wish to go to) you have to pay a small fee of around 15-20 Pounds to gain access to the list of hosts. Some countries don’t have national WWOOF organisations and are listed by WWOOF Independents, a membership gives you access to the list of hosts of any of these countries. Some national WWOOF organisations give you access to WWOOF Independents in addition to their country’s list.
You’ll find all different sorts of farms on the lists – mixed animal farms, farms focusing on one sort of animal, farms only doing agriculture…
All you need to do then is email the farm you’d like to go to! Some hosts reply straight away, others never do. Some have last-minute places, others are “wwoofed-out” for months. Some are happy for you to stay only a couple of days, others prefer volunteers to stay for at least a few weeks.
Even though you will probably see something like “5 working hours/day” on the farm’s profiles, it’s likely to end up rather different (cont.).
I made my first WWOOF-experience in France last summer. The farm I had planned on going to first cancelled last minute, but luckily I could find another one within two days. Unfortunately, my stay on that (horse) farm ended after only a week instead of a month due to an accident. These farmers didn’t really make me “work”, rather stay with them and give them a hand now and then – they were more interested in cultural exchange.
This summer I wwoofed in Morocco, on a farm close to Essaouira, for two weeks. I had more or less “fixed” working hours; I collected Argan from about 7.30 till 10.30 and sometimes in the evenings for 1 ½ hours, too, if the weather allowed it (it was usually extremely hot from noon till the evening).
Next, I wwoofed in Spain(Extremadura) for three weeks – on a “proper” farm as you imagine it with lots of land (=agriculture) and animals (=cats, dogs, sheep, donkeys, a horse, chicken, sheep, goats and cows). My work included gardening, looking after the animals, milking goats and cows, and (optional) looking after the farmer´s kids and guests if we had any. So even though it might have said “5 hours a day” on the farm´s profile, on a farm farm you can expect to be working more, since there’s always something to do. The family was wonderful, welcoming me like a daughter of their own: thank you for such a wonderful experience, I will never forget you!
I find wwoofing a great way to get around (for little money), see new places, meet new people, discover different cultures and improve my language skills (and do something useful in my holidays). Et bien sur, learn something about organic farming 🙂
Other non-organic organisations: