Despite what it sounds like, WWOOFing is not the act of turning into a werewolf and barking at the full moon—although it could involve running through cornfields in the middle of the night. WWOOF stands for “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms." The organization is a worldwide effort to link visitors with organic farmers, promote an educational experience, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices.
When you participate in WWOOFing, you'll spend your days learning about farming and doing some good old-fashioned work with your hands. It’s a chance for people of all ages to learn about organic and ecologically sound growing methods. It also gives volunteers the chance to live in another country rent-free in exchange for their labor.
The movement started in England in 1971 by Sue Coppard. Sue, a secretary, wanted to promote the organic movement by providing opportunities for urbanites to experience a more rural side of life. There are now over 60 countries with WWOOF organizations including places in Africa, Australia, and the Middle East.
If you're looking for an affordable way to travel long-term for free and want to learn about sustainable farming practices, WWOOFing is a great opportunity. Usually, your room and board are covered by the host and no money is exchanged between the host and the visitor.
Choosing where to go on your WWOOFing journey should be based on your desire to see a specific place and doing research on the kind of work you would be required to do. However, some places are more popular than others. Before you settle on a farm, be sure to vet your host, read reviews, and apply for work you're truly interested in learning.
Before signing up for any WWOOFing program, assess your comfort level and budget. While you won’t be expected to pay for anything while you are there, it is your responsibility to get to your destination and there is usually a sign-up fee to apply. The length of time you will be expected to work on a farm varies from place to place, but most farms have a minimum of one week.
From working in Bordeaux to Aquitaine, France provides many opportunities for those who want to learn about viticulture. The country is respected worldwide for its commitment to producing consistently good wine, so there really is no better place to learn the craft. Not only will you be able to escape to other European cities when you have a break, but you will be able to enjoy the delicious cheeses and wines that are produced from these farms.
If you are looking to really get down and dirty with traditional agriculture, the Central American country of Costa Rica may be just what you're looking for. There are plenty of chores that need to be done. From digging trenches, composting, tending to farm animals, and general farm maintenance, you’ll have many chances to really learn the ropes of the average farm. If you're interested in wildlife, there’s also a monkey farm you can apply to. Plus, you'll be in perfect proximity to Costa Rica's beautiful beaches and glorious rainforests and mountains.
If you've got a sweet tooth for honey and want to learn more about the practice of beekeeping, Italy is the best place to go. The country's beekeeping region is centrally located for maximum day trip opportunities on your day off. In the foothills of Piedmont in Northern Italy, Apicoltura Leida Barbara is one of the best places to learn the ins and outs of beekeeping. You'll also work with a small organic, vegetable garden as well. It’s only a train ride away from Paris and Milan if you want to escape for a weekend of city life.
Looking to go totally off the grid? Bushcrafting is practice of learning to live and work with the elements of the bush and the still-pretty-wild country of New Zealand is the best place to learn. If you plan on bushcrafting, prepare yourself for a lot of camping and be aware that there will be little access to electricity or running water. Bushcrafting is all about sustainability and learning to live comfortably within a natural environment. You’ll be learning about survival skills in addition to tending to the land.
Want to surf and learn how to shrimp? Hawaii is the place for you. There are many farms that deal with gardening and growing but it’s also a great place if you want to learn about shrimp brooding and sustainable seafood farming. There are also several horse ranches and camping farms, so you can really exercise your wild side. Not to mention all the delicious fruits and veggies you’ll be able to indulge in.