Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wwoofing: One Way to See the World and Grow

As travelers in Europe, Steve and I have stayed for part of several trips on organic farms.  One of the best parts of the places we stayed was the opportunity to meet the Wwoofers who worked on the farms.

These mostly young people come from all over the world to volunteer, learn about organic farming, learn the language in the country where they work and to travel cheaply.  They find their way to these farms through the World, Wide Organization of Organic Farms (

Choose a country from the website.  These farms are all over the world.  For a small fee you get a list of farms for the country you are interested in.  Then it is up to you to make the contact and determine if the particular farm is right for you, if they have room and work for you at the time you are available.

No worries you don't have to be young to be a Wwoofer either.

The deal is you work for a specified number of hours a day and in return you receive room and board and time off to explore the area you have chosen.  

You also have the opportunity to learn about farming, ways to live that help to preserve the environment.

These farms are small independently owned and they need help with the gardening and other projects such as building and help with livestock, cooking and cleaning, hosting guests.  You do not need experience, only enthusiasm.  Initiative helps too.

Often these farms cannot survive without offering attractions for tourists as well.  Some are bed and breakfasts.  Some offer three meals a day.   Others provide opportunities for yoga or horseback riding or adventure tours.

Wwoofers might be offered the opportunity to participate in these activities on their time off, another perk for the volunteer but it depends on the farm.

The Wwoofers we met came from Denmark, Portugal, France, Canada, the US, Australia, Holland and Germany, just to name a few countries of origin.  Many of them spoke more than one language and were learning another.

There is no contract so if the placement does not work for the Wwoofer, he or she can choose to leave at any time.  Often they find a farm more suitable for them and make their way to that place.

One couple told me that they initially went to work on a horse farm.  It was in a very hot, dry climate.  The owners severely rationed the water for the Wwoofers and the food was scarce.  It was difficult living but they stuck in out, they said, because they felt they had an agreement to stay 6 weeks.  After that they found a nearby farm that needed their help and they were treated as part of the family.

Another young woman told me the work she did was hard, heavy construction and at first while they were building the new farmhouse there was no running water, toilet facilities or electricity.  She and other Wwoofers slept outside.  But after 6 months as she saw the farm and buildings take shape she was proud to be part of the accomplishment.  She felt part of something greater than herself and she had learned a lot about construction and farming as well as living off the grid.

A young man from Denmark has dreams of one day starting his own organic project off the grid.  On the farm where we stayed he had developed a simple method of growing plants in plastic containers with a watering system that took little care.  His excitement for the possibilities of creating ways to live by leaving a small footprint on the environment inspires.

Another young man form Quebec joked about how he and his girlfriend were learning to herd goats on a farm that produced goat cheese to sell in local markets.  He said it took two of them and still they could not keep track of the herd.  Another Wwoofer on the same farm came from a farm in Germany. She could stand in the field all day reading a book and know where all the goats were just by listening to them, move and eat and to the bells.

Whether they are there to work or for an inexpensive way to see the world, to learn a language or a skill to learn about organic farming, experience living off the grid or ways to help create a better world, these young people give me hope for the future.   They have helped give meaning to my own travel adventures.

(Wwoofers from around the world working at two farms about a mile apart, meet on Saturday afternoons for soccer in the horse corral.)

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