What is WWOOFing?

Written by: Adreen Hart-Rule

WWOOFing gives the opportunity for people to experience idealistic lifestyles, such as living in a chalet at the foot of Mont Blanc, or spending time on a ranch in Texas, or even staying in the Bush of Australia, for free. WWOOFing participants only have to pay for their travel – their accommodation and food is catered for.

What is WWOOFing?

The organisation was created in 1971 after previously being called Working Weekends. It originates from the UK when a woman called Sue Coppard, a secretary from London, decided to organise a weekend for herself and two other Londoners to visit a farm in East Sussex. She wanted to experience some time in the country like she had when she was younger. In exchange for spending time on the farm, Sue and her two companions completed what she described as ‘housework’, which included clearing out blocked ditches and hacking back brambles which were encroaching into a field.

After the success of the weekend, more followed, and the interest for having weekends away grew both among willing volunteers and the owners of farms. All of a sudden WWOOFing was born.

Over the years it has continued to grow and has national organisations in over 50 countries and independents in another 40 countries. As the experiences were no longer limited to a weekend, the name had to change.

What does WWOOFing stand for?

In most countries WWOOF stands for ‘World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms’ (adopted in 2000). However, there are a few organisations where they decided to keep the old name (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) and one has chosen for the acronym to stand for ‘We’re Welcome on Organic Farms’.

Volunteers (known as WWOOFers) do a variety of jobs, which they agree with their host. They can include weeding, helping with the harvest or assisting with animals. It’s advised for WWOOFing participants to be of at least an average fitness level and to be interested in learning about organic growing, country life or ecologically sound lifestyles.

Where can I WWOOF?

It gives people the chance to try something very different from their normal routine. Zoe Weinstein decided to do something which used her ‘hands’ before starting to study Library Science at the University of Illinois. To save money she stayed in her country and WWOOFed at a dairy farm in Gratsbury, Wisconsin. She learnt new skills such as how to tube a lamb as well as some basic veterinary knowledge, which included how to tell if a lamb was starving or had polio. Very recently she has been on a garden farm / bakery in Stockingbridge, Michigan and still wishes to do more WWOOFing in the future.

Another American who is going to take advantage of the organisation is Elinor Hickey, who is taking part in Livingston, Montana, so she can do something new in a new place and to give her “big muscles and character!”

Users have to join the organisation of the country they wish to travel to, this includes a membership fee (for WWOOF UK it costs £20 for a single person or £30 for a couple). This fee also covers insurance.

Members then have access to the ‘list’ of organic farms, gardens and smallholdings and organise their stay at one of the available placements. When contacting a host, volunteers can determine their work and how long they’ll stay. In exchange for the work (on the UK site, it advises volunteers to be prepared for 25-30 hour weeks), volunteers get lodgings and food.

The host plays an important role in the experience a person has while WWOOFing. They decide what work needs to be achieved, and the type and amount of food which they provide. This can vary and so it is advised to try and establish expectations on both sides. All over the internet there are comments of positive experiences WWOOFers have had with their hosts; Abigail Smith said: “My WWOOFing host is the most adorable middle-aged lady ever. I just taught her how to use her new GPS.”

People taking part in this so called ‘voluntourism’ find the experiences hold a great amount of variety and enjoy the experiences. Deanna Deacon tweeted: “Today I milked a cow, chased some chickens, fed some pigs and dug up an entire garden. Sooo happy I’m WWOOFing in #newzeland.”

Where can I WWOOF?

Opportunities are literally available all over the world. Here are just a few examples of what are available:

In Greece there is a placement to help with a rare breed of horses (including the need for light-weight riders), and helping to set up an organic garden, creating compost out of the horse muck. The main chores include mucking the horses out, feeding, fencing training and handling.

On the Hawaiian island of Maui, there is an aquaponic (a sustainable food production system combining aquaculture and hydroponics) farm. It’s situated inside the rainforests of East Maui where there’s a strong community of artists, farmers and families.

Kat Walker has been tweeting about her experiences in the Australian outback, where she has WWOOFed. One day she said: “Morning run along an old airstrip in the outback, at sunrise, kangaroos jumping beside me..! So cool!” An opportunity available in Australia is in the Bush working in a garden. Main chores include harvesting, weeding, helping with firewood, making walking tracks and helping with the landscaping.

These examples are only a drop in the ocean compared to the number of opportunities available, but these already show the variety of both locations and work included.

Last year there were over 4,500 WWOOFers registered with WWOOF UK, and there are around 15,000 registered in America. These numbers clearly demonstrate the popularity this organisation has gained leading to people all around the world taking the chance to get to know the culture of the area they’re staying in by working and living with local people. In addition, volunteering experience is an excellent asset for CVs or university applications, therefore, WWOOF helps to get the most out of your gap year – helping both budget and future prospects.

 

Check out more volunteering opportunities

Search

26 Week Teaching Adventure

from £2795

182 days

Start in Beijing with a group of like-minded participants and embark upon a 4 week TEFL qualification with added classroom...

Marine Conservation, Mozambique

from £1850

14 - 112 days

Live on the beach and join a world-class research team in Southern Mozambique, one of the best diving locations in...

Volunteer at an Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand

from £779

7 days

Care for elephants in an amazing sanctuary just 3 hours from Bangkok

Jobs in China with TEFL training

from £549

120 - 330 days

Positions all over China, including in Shanghai & Beijing, Monthly salary of £650-£1650 depending on location, Online TEFL course &...

Costa Rica Teaching

from £395

7 - 140 days

Costa Rica is one of the most breath-taking countries in the world. Travel to this tropical paradise and take part...

Care and Community in Cambodia, Summer 2018

from £1370

14 days

Volunteers make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children by dividing their time between running fun educational activities and...

Volunteer with Kids in Costa Rica

from £945

14 - 84 days

Immerse yourself in Costa Rican culture when you travel to Quepos and volunteer on a community project helping disadvantaged children.

Volunteer in Wild Elephant Conservation in Sri Lanka

from £677

14 - 84 days

Volunteer on the Wild Elephant volunteer project in Sri Lanka. Located in the Wasgamuwa region.

Park & Wildlife Management

from £1

14 - 90 days

Work on the Balule Game Reserve in the greater Kruger National Park with experienced field guides, research managers and ecologists.

Amazon Conservation Work

from £1495

14 - 84 days

Work alongside scientific researchers to document the Amazon ecosystem to study local wildlife including endangered Blue-headed macaw, jaguars and monkeys

Search

Brisbane to Cairns Experience

from £979

Australia

You can get a sense of just how huge Australia is by looking at a map, but once you’re there,...

Galápagos — South & East Islands aboard the Monserrat

from £2049

Ecuador

Have you always dreamed about exploring the Galápagos, but never found the time? Make some. Let the Monserrat show you...

Marrakech to Barcelona

from £1775

Spain

Travel through Morocco and Spain. From the splendidly chaotic medina of Marrakech, through the ancient city of Seville, to the...

Cuzco to La Paz

from £1526

Peru

This adventure takes you through the centre of ancient Inca heartlands on a short but sweet Overland tour. Travel through...

East African Explorer 21 Day

from £840

What could be better than sand, sun and safari? If you're looking to combine a beach getaway with once-in-a-lifetime wildlife...

La Paz to Santiago

from £1685

Argentina

Visit South America and travel through Bolivia, Argentina and Chile on an unforgettable adventure through the soaring Andes. Meet friendly...

Eastern Europe Explorer

from £1925

Romania

Be mesmerised by the magic of Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria on this explorer tour through the best and most beautiful...

Discover Machu Picchu and Galápagos — Land & Sea Central Islands

Ecuador, Peru

Experience two wonders of the ancient world on one comprehensive trip full of culture, discovery and exploration. Begin in the...

Arctic Express: Greenland’s Northern Lights – Fly North, Fly South

from £7100

Greenland

Love to experience the natural wonders of Eastern Greenland but short on time? This here’s your trip. Starting and finishing...

Ultimate Italy

from £1784

Italy

From the villages of the Cinque Terre to Tuscany's medieval splendour, this is an adventure for those looking to indulge...

Discover more articles about volunteering abroad

Search
[contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact form 1"]