Wwoofing, wwoofer, wwoof… No, this isn’t some kind of strange new language. The wwoofing movement began in England in 1971, and gradually spread worldwide. So how does it work? Wwoofing basically is all about exchanging services. An organic farm or smallholding hosts a wwoofer, providing food and accommodation in return for a few hours of daily work on the farm. WWOOF, meaning World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is now an international network of organisations. Becoming a wwoofer is a way to travel cheaply, live abroad with the locals, and gain ‘green’ experience.
Cultural exchange and know-how sharing: this is mainly what wwoofing is about. The wwoofer isn’t an employee; there is no hierarchical relationship between the wwoofer and his or her host. The success of the exchange is based on a good-will link between travelers and farmers.
Wwoofers are volunteers: they agree to help their host, who will offer food and accommodation in return. Working hours and days off must be discussed beforehand but on average, wwoofers work between five and six hours a day. Picking apples, chopping wood, feeding the animals, gardening, renovating a farm, making cheese: there are many different tasks you might be asked to complete, but they partly depend on what your host specialises in. Your host may simply have a vegetable garden or own a smallholding: never assume all wwoofing experiences are alike. However, wherever you wwoof, exchange is the rule.
You don’t need a resume to become a wwoofer! Your age, your nationality, and your knowledge of organic growing has little importance (although being over 18 is usually requested). Agreeing with the spirit of wwoofing is what matters: showing interest in your host and his or her daily activities, being interested in ecological lifestyles, being open-minded… Many young holders of Working Holiday Visas choose to combine holidays and wwoofing. During a round-the-world trip, some globe-trotters spend a few weeks with several hosts in different countries… Wwoofing can be an alternative way to travel the world.
Wwoofing is possible on all continents and in nearly one hundred countries. There are more than 50 national WWOOF organisations which match hosts and wwoofers. Some countries don’t have any organisation, and thus appear on a list of WWOOF independents. The number of hosts varies greatly from one country to another.
In Europe, wwoofing is widespread and you may choose between many different hosts. In the United Kingdom for instance, over 600 hosts welcome wwoofers. In France, more than 2340 hosts have already joined the movement. Wwoofing is possible in many other European destinations: how about spending two weeks on a farm in Norway (116 hosts), or in Estonia (10 hosts)?
… and elsewhere
Outside Europe, wwoofing is very developed in countries which attract many working holiday-ers: there are nearly 600 hosts in Canada and New Zealand (over 1,000 hosts), and Australian organisations (2,600 hosts) are also extremely active. And for off the beaten track experiences, there are endless possibilities: a Patagonian ranch in the middle of nowhere, a tea farm in China, a rice field in Chiba, Japan, a farm in South Africa…
Whether you are seeking a first time wwoof gig or would like to wwoof your way around the world, procedures are always the same and are quite simple. Wwoofing experiences can be incredibly rewarding or quite disastrous: to avoid disappointment, you must prepare for the adventure.
There are two steps to take before wwoofing:
Subscribe to the WWOOF organisation of the country you wish to visit. Membership is valid for a year and fees usually are quite low (between EUR25 and EUR30 for France, GBP20 and GBP30 for the United Kingdom, CAD55 and CAD80 for Canada).
Select and contact your hosts. Following your signup, you will receive a detailed list of the existing hosts. You definitely need to introduce yourself and discuss your daily schedule, as well as the organisation of your stay, with your host well in advance. Don’t arrive incognito: email or call first, and begin building the trust.
International health insurance to cover medical expenses abroad and handle repatriation, if needed;
The right visa, if requested (in many cases, wwoofers hold tourist visas or Working Holiday Visas);
Their WWOOF ID number;
Clothes and shoes suitable for farm work and adapted to the climate of the destination country;
Tolerance and adaptability skills.
Take a look at the worldwide network and select your destination on the WWOOF website.
Designed for individuals and families working, living, or moving abroad for less than a year, short-term health insurance provides medical coverage during your time overseas.
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