Despite what it sounds like, WWOOFING is not the act of turning into a werewolf on a full moon, though it could involve running through cornfields in the middle of the night. According to WWOOF-USA, “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, (WWOOF®) is part of a worldwide effort to link visitors with organic farmers, promote an educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices.”.
Sounds exciting right? Spending 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 and to give volunteers the chance to live in another country in exchange for their efforts. The movement started in England in 1971 by Sue Coppard. Sue, a secretary, wanted to promote the organic movement by providing opportunities to urbanites to experience a more rural side of life.
There are now 61 countries with WWOOF organizations including places in Africa, Australia, and the Middle East.
If you are someone interested in getting your hands dirty, learning about sustainability and farming practices and want to experience living in another country for free, WWOOFING may be for you! Usually, your room and board are covered by the host and no money exchanged between the host and the visitor. Guests work half a day and can include anything from harvesting grapes and coffee beans to pulling out invasive weeds.
While choosing a place 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, we sussed out some of the most popular spots to visit. Be sure to vet your host, read reviews and apply for work you are truly interested in learning.
It’s no question that France is known for its rich wine scene. From working in Bordeaux to Aquitaine, France provides many opportunities for those who want to learn about viticulture. 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. For a list of places to work on vineyards in France, check out this great Matador article.
If you are looking to really get down and dirty with the dirt...Costa Rica may be up your alley. The diversity of the land means there are plenty of chores that to take care of. From digging trenches, composting, tending to farm animals and general farm maintenance, you’ll have the chance to really learn the ropes. There’s also a monkey farm you can apply to if you are more interested in combining your farm work with tending to wildlife as well!
In the foothills of Piedmont, is a place called, Apicoltura Leida Barbara. You’ll learn the ins and outs of beekeeping and 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 learning to live and work with the elements of the bush. If you plan on bushcrafting, you’ll be camping and there will be little access to electricity or running water. It’s about sustainability and learning to live comfortably within a natural environment. New Zealand is a perfect place to do this and you’ll be learning about survival skills as well as tending to the land.
Want to surf and 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 partake in.
A few things to consider before signing up for any WWOOFING program. Asses 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. There is usually a sign-up fee to apply to any of the programs, though it typically is very small and allows you to apply for a year. 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.
Get your green thumb ready and go!