Have you ever dreamed of working at a winery in the south of France? Baking bread in a small town in Italy? Fruit carving in Thailand? What about harvesting honey in the American Midwest? What if you could do it for free? That’s what WWOOFing is all about, encouraging meaningful relationships with local farmers while equipping travelers with new knowledge. Our guide to WWOOFing is here to give you all the information you need to begin your WWOOF journey!
What is WWOOFing and what does WWOOF stand for?
WWOOF, the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is an organization that helps connect organic farmers and traveling volunteers. Those who are interested in organic farming can volunteer in one of 120 different countries. Initially started in 1971 as a way to teach city dwellers how to farm, the program expanded throughout the world as a way for people to get hands-on experience with farming. Volunteers typically work a few hours a day while at the farm and receive room and board in exchange. Volunteer trip lengths can vary from days to months depending on the farmer.
Who can participate in the WWOOF experience?
WWOOF volunteers are those interested in learning skills as they travel. The program is not just for wanderers looking for a free place to stay; it’s an exchange of work for knowledge and housing. While most WWOOF countries require volunteers to be 18 or older, there are a few exceptions. WWOOF Italy, WWOOF Portugal, WWOOF Germany, and WWOOF UK.
If you’re interested in finding a way to travel for (nearly) free and also have a desire to learn about farming volunteer opportunities, WWOOF may be a perfect fit.
How do I WWOOF?
The first question to answer when you’re looking to go WWOOFing is this: “Do I care more about where I go or what I’ll do?” This will help guide your WWOOFing decision.
Because each WWOOF country has its own website, your best bet is to choose a country first. Some countries, like Uzbekistan, only have a few host options. Other countries, like Australia, have hundreds of listings. To see listing details in a country (unless it’s a WWOOF Independent country), you have to have a membership. The memberships last up to one year and give you access to host details, contact information, and a platform to communicate through.
Once you’ve chosen your country, you can find the right host based on what they require and what kind of activities you’ll be participating in. It’s helpful to know what you’re looking for when you scour through listings. Do you love interacting with animals? Perhaps you prefer to dig up carrots and potatoes and unruly weeds.
Host farms also have different required lengths of stay. Some may prefer weekend WWOOFers only, and others want volunteers who can stick around for the long run.
Knowing your own time constraints and preferred activities will help you narrow down the listings.
What should I pay attention to?
Keep an eye out on ratings and reviews by previous WWOOFers to see what other volunteers have to say. Be wary though, as it’s typical for negative WWOOF experiences to be glossed over.
Knowing what your host expects you to bring will help ensure you are as prepared as possible. Some farms require you to bring boots, gloves and other equipment. Others have all the tools ready for you.
WWOOF websites allow you to email back and forth with your hosts, so you have the opportunity to get a feel for them before you make the leap to work for them. A few things to potentially bring up are mealtime expectations, what your lodging will be like, and shower/laundry facilities.
What else do I need to know
When it comes to your visa, transportation to and from the farm, and supplies to bring, the cost is on you. In addition, you’ll want to look at your travel insurance details as some do not cover volunteer experiences. Wi-Fi access and cellphone service are not guaranteed at all listings either, so be sure to ask your hosts about any relevant details.
What about WWOOF Independent?
WWOOF Independent countries don’t have a national group just yet; they don’t have their own individual organizations. In contrast, WWOOF countries not classified as independent have a national group that understands the local volunteer law and helps to ensure compliance.
As long as you have a membership from another country, you can access the listings for WWOOF Independent countries.
Organizations similar to WWOOF
If you like the idea of WWOOF but are looking for something a little different, you can also look into Workaway and Helpx. Both organizations allow you to peruse the listings without having to pay for a membership first.