Wwoofing: an alternative travel option

Wwoofing, wwoofer, wwoof… No, this isn’t some kind of strange new language. The wwoofing movement begun 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 organizations. Becoming a wwoofer is a way to travel cheap, live abroad with the locals and gain green experience.

How does wwoofing work?

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 host. The success of the exchange is based on a good-will link between travelers and farmers.

The WWOOF deal

Wwoofers are volonteers: they agree to help their host who will be offering food and accommodation in return. Working hours and days off must be discussed beforehand but in average, wwoofers work between five and six hours à day. Picking apples, chopping wood, feeding the animals, gardening, renovation a farm, making cheese: there are many different tasks you might be asked to complete but they partly depend on what your host specializes 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.

Anybody can wwoof

You don’t need a resume to become a wwoofer! Your age (being over 18 usually is requested), your nationality or your knowledge of organic growing has little importance. Agreeing with the spirit of wwoofing is what matters: showing interest in your host and his daily occupations, being attracted by 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 around the world

Wwoofing is possible on all continents and in nearly one hundred countries. There are more than 50 national WWOOF organizations which match hosts and wwoofers. Some countries don’t have any organization and thus appear in a list of WWOOF independents. The number of hosts varies greatly from one country to another.

In Europe…

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, 950 hosts have already joined the movement. Wwoofing is possible in many other European destinations: how about spending two weeks in a farm in Norway (134 hosts) or in Estonia (50 hosts)?

… and elsewhere

Outside Europe, wwoofing is very developed in countries which attract many workingholiday-ers: there are nearly 900 hosts in Canada and New-Zealand (over 1,000 hosts) and Australian (2,600 hosts) organizations are 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…

Go wwoofing!

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 the adventure.

Becoming a wwoofer

There are two steps to take before wwoofing:

  1. Subscribe to the WWOOF organization of the country you wish to visit. Membership is valid for a year and fees usually are quite low (between EUR25 and EUR35 for France, GBP20 and GBP25 for the United-Kingdom and CAD60 for Canada).
  1. Select and contact your hosts. Following your membership, 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 organization of your stay with your host well in advance. Don’t arrive incognito: email or call and begin building the trust.

Well informed wwoofers don’t leave without:

  • 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 climat of the country of destination;
  • Tolerance and adaptability skills.

To find out more about wwoofing:

Take a look at the worldwide network and select your destination on the WWOOF website.

Date of publication Jul 28 2015

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