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World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a movement ideal for backpackers looking for a cheap and unique way to travel. WWOOF connects nomadic volunteers with organic farmers for an exchange of cultural and educational experiences for manual labor in hopes of growing sustainable global communities.
In return for a day’s work on a farm, usually about four to six hours a day, hosts offer food, accommodation, and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. With a small yearly membership fee, WWOOFers are provided access to all available farms around the world so they can choose and communicate with ones they are interested in and arrange their stay.
Available stays can range from one week to many years, and with thousands of hosts available in over 53 countries, there are endless opportunities suitable for anyone. There are a few different websites varying by location, and a diversity of jobs and farms to choose from.
Rosvall tells BTRtoday that her favorite experience WWOOFing was when she bicycled from Finland to Germany and stopped in Sweden. She ended up in a nice little city where she was able to help a host family build a tree house.
“You don’t need to know anything about farming because you will learn everything,” Rosvall encourages. “It’s an experience that you will never forget and it’s just about being open-minded. If you like to work with animals and you want to meet new people, this is exactly your thing.”
Anastasia Erokhina from Moscow has WWOOFed on three different farms and also experienced a multitude of jobs throughout her travels, including seeding leek and lettuce, planting rice on the field and cleaning rice trays, harvesting potatoes and peppers, cutting side branches, sorting and packing different vegetables, and even plumbing and making mulberry jam.
“The kinds of jobs you get to do when WWOOFing vary greatly from farm to farm and from season to season,” Erokhina describes. “There are different farms available: normal vegetables, exotic fruits, tea or salt farms. During the spring season they seed and plant, then it’s mostly weeding in [the] summer and harvesting during the fall.”
Erokhina admits that sometimes the work was tough and other times it was a piece of cake.
“You need to be prepared for everything that might come and never be afraid to get dirty,” she says. “We pulled a heavy hose through the gutter in the afternoon heat, but the efforts were worth the result: you feel great when you see the water flowing in the dry rice field.”
While WWOOFing definitely reduces a backpackers budget, it is not just about saving money. Hosts are responsible for their workers needs during their stay including food and accommodation, farming tools, hats and gloves, rain boots, and other necessities. However, there may still be expenses other than those straight from the farm or transportation to and from your host location.
To truly appreciate the WWOOFing experience, volunteers need to be prepared to work and to learn.
“Farming jobs are tough and dirty; sometimes you get really tired and you can’t travel and WWOOF at the same time,” Erokhina admits. “When you finish your day tasks, it’s about to get dark, and most of the farms are located in secluded places you can’t go far from even if you want to.”
Ariel Demar is from the Dominican Republic and is currently WWOOFing in Alaska. Demar tells BTRtoday that he was looking for ways to travel on a budget, but WWOOFing turned out to be much more than that.
“WWOOFing is an amazing option, not only because you’re going to save money while doing it, [but] you’re also going to be able to meet amazing people on the farms where you end up volunteering. You’re going to be eating as healthy as possible–fresh vegetables usually–and you’re going to learn a lot,” Demar says. “I would totally be prepared to grow my own food back home whenever I decide to go back.”
WWOOFing provides a great opportunity to submerge in another culture and live a life that is not typical for tourists. It can be extremely rewarding for those who are willing to work hard and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty in the process.
Visitors spend most of their time with their host families, which in turn leads to an immersive cultural experience and strong, potentially life-lasting friendships.
“You can have your own space if you want to, but you’re kind of part of the family,” says Rosvall. “If you stay a long time, normally you have weekends off, and that’s when you have quality time and you see the city that you stay in and you do things together.”
“You’re going to get some physical work, you’re going to be eating healthy, you’re going to feel happier, be more outdoors–it’s the whole package to be honest,” Demar supports.
WWOOFers understand they are working in exchange for a few free meals and a place to sleep at night, but what they get in return is so much more rewarding than that. The knowledge, experience, and satisfaction of helping in an organic setting, gaining memorable friendships, and experiencing cultural integration, as well as being able to see the world from an entirely new perspective make it worth all the sweat, dirt and hard work expended.