The Backpacker's Guide To WOOFING

WWOOFING? Come again? WWOOF stands for worldwide opportunities on organic farms, and it’s a great opportunity for travellers to try their hand at organic farming, experience local life, and give back to the community by assisting with sustainable ways of farming. One of the main attractions for travellers, however, is that WWOFFING offers free food and accommodation in exchange for your labour and so it’s an excellent way to travel the world on a shoestring budget.

Farm work in Australia

Farm Work in Western Australia 

How does it work?

If you’re keen to get involved in WWOOFING on your backpacking trip then you will need to sign up to become a member. The first thing you will need to do is check whether the country you are visiting has a WWOFING scheme; some countries have their own National WWOOF organisations and for countries that don’t, they have WWOOF Independents instead.

WWOOFING organisations facilitate the initial contact between you and the host by providing a list of farmers who you can initiate contact with to organise a placement. Thereafter, you are expected to make the arrangements with the organic farm owners.

After your membership is paid you will have access to a directory of farms who may be interested in taking you on as a WWOOFER but it is your responsibility to make the initial contact and to organise your stay with them. The directory will provide the email addresses, or in some cases, contact numbers of the hosts – you should contact the host of placements you are interested to pursue well in advance to increase your likelihood of obtaining a placement.

Make sure that you negotiate your placement with the host and ask all of the relevant questions prior to accepting a placement – making sure you are aware of what is expected of you before you turn up; this will limit disappointment from both parties. Questions you might want to consider asking are:

Work – what activities will you be doing? How many days and hours of work will be expected of you?

Meals— how many meals will be provided? Are you expected to cook? Don’t forget to list any dietary requirements you have.

Accommodation – what is the accommodation like? Are you expected to take your own linen?

Equipment – will your host provide equipment, or will this be supplied?

What does WWOOFING cost?

Whether you obtain a placement through a National WWOOF programme, or Independent WWOFERS, you will usually be required to pay a small donation in exchange for membership and prices will vary depending on the location you wish to WWOOF. For example, if you are keen to WWOOF in Australia, then you would be required to buy a WWOOFING book priced at $65 AUD – this purchase will automatically make you a WWOOFING member and the book is a directory that lists over 2,400 hosts throughout Australia.

It costs approximately $25 US dollars to join the national WWOOF Independent scheme; this membership fee will give you access to a host list and your membership will last one year.

These charges are an administrative fee which keeps the programmes running.

Why WWOOF?

·         A unique experience: WWOOFING will offer you a valuable insight into working on organic farms. Backpacking is a time when you want to gain as many new experiences as possible, and WWOOFING is certainly an experience! You will be entering into the day to day life of your host and their farm and be treated as a member of their family.

·         Give back to the local community: WWOOFING is a great opportunity to give back to the local community by helping maintain and producing sustainable, organic farming.

·         Free food and accommodation: The great thing about WWOOFING for travellers is that you will get free food and accommodation during your stay, therefore, it makes a great way to travel for backpackers on a tight budget! However, this programme is not to be viewed as merely a “free travel” ticket – the programme expects volunteers to have a genuine interest in organic farming and sustainable ways of living.

Free food and accommodation – what’s the catch?

There isn’t one. WWOOFING is not a paid arrangement; the farmers are getting free labour from you, and in return you get free food, free accommodation and the opportunity to experience working on an organic farm in the country of your choice. However, as mentioned, you are expected to have a genuine interest in organic farming and if you don’t, this isn’t the option for you.

Where can I WWOOF?

There are around 320 hosts in 32 countries worldwide in all five continents: North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.

What work is involved?

The work is varied and what you will be doing will depend on what type of farm you go to. Some of the work you might get involved in includes sowing seeds, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing, wine cheese and bread making.

Is it safe?

Make sure you have adequate travel insurance – you must make sure that your insurance plan includes voluntary /manual /agricultural work.

Keep in regular contact with family and friends and always let someone know the name and address of where you are.

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