WWOOF, a Program that Lets You Travel in Exchange for Volunteer Work
Anyone working in a city is familiar with the desire to get away from the hustle and bustle of their workplace to go somewhere peaceful to dig in the dirt and grow something. For those with regular corporate jobs, the greenery and watching things grow can often be a healing experience. To cater to this need, a woman has created a worldwide network of hospitality services known as WWOOF that let you stay on an organic farm for a period of time and gain first-hand experience. It is also an opportunity for those who want to be farmers themselves and learn the trade. Here is more about the organization.
WWOOF was founded in England in 1971 by a woman named Sue Coppard to provide urban dwellers the opportunity to work on farms while supporting the organic movement.
Sue Coppard started WWOOF, which originally stood for “Working Weekends On Organic Farms,” as a trial for four people to work at the biodynamic farm at Emerson College in Sussex. Soon, more people started volunteering for more than just the weekends, and the name was then changed to “Willing Workers On Organic Farms.” However, the word “work” caused confusion among the labor laws and immigration authorities in some countries who used to think the volunteers, also called the “WWOOFers,” were immigrant workers competing for local jobs. To eliminate this problem, and also since it has become a worldwide movement, the name was again changed in 2000 to “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” though some of the branches, like the Australian WWOOF, choose to use the older name.
Volunteers can stay on the farm anywhere between a few days to months and work for four to six hours a day for the day’s food and accommodation.
Volunteers can choose any country they wish to visit and work in. After signing up for WWOOF on the website of that country, they would be given the option to choose from a list of farms. Contacting the farm, arranging the dates and duration of stay, however, is up to the volunteers. Though they could stay and work as long as they want, the typical duration is usually one to two weeks. The work includes any of the farming activities such as sowing seeds, gardening, planting, weeding, harvesting, packaging, making compost, milking, feeding cattle, cutting wood, fencing, making mud-bricks, and making wine, cheese, or bread. There is no maximum age for volunteering, and many hosts welcome mature volunteers who have specific skills.
There are WWOOF hosts from as many as 210 countries around the world, and each national organization operates separately but stays in collaboration with others to maintain similar standards.
Apart from the national organizations, there are also WWOOF Independents that link volunteers with organic farmers and growers from countries that do not have a national WWOOF organization. From the 83 countries the Independents list, there are over 751 hosts offering opportunities from remote tropical islands to deserts, and from jungles to even the arctic regions. Of the 210 countries where there are national organizations, the highest number of hosts are in Australia at 2,600 followed by New Zealand at 2,340. The US has 2,052, and the UK has 688.
In order to diversify the experience, some WWOOF groups have also included fields other than organic farming such as healing centers, ecovillages, and pottery and arts.
Health and healing centers, brewing and food production, nature guide center, organic restaurants, building and restoring buildings, dealing with animals, and centers for the environment are some of the other opportunities that were included to offer a complete experience of an organic lifestyle. Some hosts also welcome families along with volunteers to enjoy the experience.[Sources: Wikipedia, WWOOF]
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