Do you know someone like my friend Kayla? She's a smart, energetic gal who is committed to doing her part to help the environment. After graduating from college she didn't know exactly what she wanted to do. Should she go to grad school, try to find a job, travel, or move back home? Suddenly the light bulb over her head lit up--She would get involved with organic farming via WWOOF.
Allow me to explain. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a program that helps to connect able-bodied volunteers over the age of 18 with organic farms around the globe.
Who can WWOOF?
Anyone over the age of 18 who is physically able to help with farm chores can volunteer as a WWOOFer.
Diana Weschke, a WWOOFer featured in a video on the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms web site, worked at the Paradise Island Alpaca Farm in British Columbia, Canada. She says of her experience on the farm, "You experience things you wouldn't as an ordinary tourist." She outlines her typical day on the farm which includes chores with the alpacas, horses, and chickens.
Who hosts WWOOFers?
Small organic farms host WWOOFers. Conditions and amenities vary on each farm but, generally speaking, a visiting WWOOFer is given a bed and meals in exchange for approximately 4-6 hours of farm work per day (approximately 15-30 hours per week).
Dave, a farmer at the Paradise Island Alpaca Farm, says of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms experience, "We get to know younger people and how they're thinking. And it's very positive for us to know that people are thinking about the environment and how to sustain their living."
When can you go?
Anytime. Potential WWOOFers make specific arrangements with the farm.
How long will I stay on the farm?
Again, that varies from farm to farm. Some WWOOFers stay for as little as a week while others hang around for months or even a year. Each WWOOFer works out these details with the farm they're visiting.
Where can you go?
The WWOOF web site lists farms from around the globe from Hawaii to Ireland to Belarus. Chances are, if you're interested in farming in a particular country, WWOOF can help to find you a farm there.
Why you want to WWOOF
Remember my friend Kayla? She wanted a hands-on way to help the environment, and she knew that learning more about organic farming practices would allow her to do that. But World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms doesn't only appeal to the eco-minded.
Budget travelers who have just enough money scraped together for a plane ticket can WWOOF. They could, for example, work for a handful of hours each day on a farm on Maui and spend the rest of the day catching waves. They don't have to pay for a hotel or hostel because they stay on the farm.
OK, I'm intrigued. How do I learn more?
Your first stop should be the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms web site. There you'll be able to register (there's a small fee), log in, and start thinking about where you'd like to go. The web site also has practical information such as VISA info, costs, and insurance.
Take some time to check out videos that WWOOFers have posted to YouTube where you'll hear authentic reviews of the WWOOF experience.
3 practical tips:
1. Choose carefully. Start by making a list of your "must-haves." For example, if money is tight, then you may want to ensure that the farm host will provide meals. If you can't stand the cold then choose a farm in a warmer climate. If you're a vegan, then avoid farms that work with livestock.
2. Should you go alone or with friends? A group of friends can offer support and safety. They can, however, be a distraction. Remember that the host farm is going to expect you to be a productive guest. If your friends are only interested in getting amped and perfecting their layback snap at a nearby beach, then maybe you should go alone.
3. Women especially should consider the potential dangers of traveling alone. As a woman who has traveled alone I know the empowerment that solo travel can offer. (And you never know when your Javier Bardem is going to show up in your own 'Eat, Pray, Love' journey.) But be practical--some countries are safer for solo female travelers than others. Do your research and learn about the place you're going before you pack your bags.
Related on Organic Authority
photo of female farmer via Shutterstock