What is WWOOFing? Is it the sound dogs make? Is it what people say when someone attractive walks by? Or … is it organic education?
WWOOFing officially stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, but colloquially it can be referred to as Will Work On Organic Farms. There are bunch of other nicknames, but I won’t waste more of your time by listing them.
WWOOF was established about forty years ago and now offers working locations on all continents except Antarctica (of course). People who WWOOF go off to far away places and learn about alternative farming lifestyles for extended periods of time. In order to WWOOF, you need to pay and sign up for a specific country.
After that, you can get the contacts of a destination and make arrangements with a host. From there, the farm and yourself decide how long and when you will work. During your WWOOFing period, you work for a certain amount each day; however, you have free time off as well. It is a great way to learn about agriculture, sustainability, and explore new cultures.
Not surprisingly, I learned about WWOOFing at Chewonki. The woodland fairy/ Thoreau-in-residence (her nickname/actual faculty title) along with other farmers introduced the semester to this special gerund. Some of the other students’ siblings and family members had gone WWOOFing as well, but the information sessions led by the faculty were a lot more informative than just, “Yeah. My sister went and really liked it.”
The woodland fairy went to southern India for a GAP year after deferring from an Ivy League school, which she would later leave by her own choice. (Gotta love her!) She worked alongside local residents, and her connection to the subcontinent bloomed. She is currently venturing with her boyfriend to a Tibetan speaking region of northern India for an indefinite period of time to learn their indigenous agriculture systems. Sounds fun, right? She had the great realization that if the people of the Himalayas can survive for centuries in a harsh farming climate, the United States can surely reutilize the once magnificent Great Plains effectively. The issues of space and soil degradation can be eliminated somehow. She’s not wrong …
WWOOFing isn’t just for young, free spirits though. You can WWOOF with family as well.
Where would I WWOOF? As stated before, I am interested in Portugal. I would use this adventure to improve on a language and just farm. I may have forgotten to mention that I absolutely love farming. However, you can WWOOF really anywhere in the world! Want to go to Bangladesh, Taiwan, Uganda, or Lithuania?; they are all options. Of course, safety varies not as a result of the organization but depending on location.
However, age limits do apply. Some countries allow minors with some extra documentation, but most only permit 18 year olds +. This is understandable since you manage transportation to and from each host. Food and housing are their responsibility, but you must get to the farm first! This is why I am trying to make some extra money here in the Midwest. Plane tickets are awfully expensive, and I mean awfully in all context.
Back to the matter at hand, I would love to go to Iceland. Korea is also quite nice, and Sweden is wonderful in the summers. I would love to learn how to make cheese too … I need to do more research, but I have time. It’s best to contact farms early.
However even if you aren’t a member, you can still look at location availability (just without a means of communication) and gain a plethora of information about the farms like if they need people urgently.
I can learn about the destinations first without making any rash actions. However, the definitive factor of where I go is, of course, if I can even pay to get there. If you are interested in WWOOFing, but aren’t into going too far away/ don’t have the time, you can WWOOF domestically. Canada is also an option if you want to go a little farther. Just get on the website and explore: http://www.wwoof.net/
I might not be in South America this time. This will be different for all of us. If you have any WWOOFing suggestions, please comment below. I have my own criteria for what I want, but I would love to hear some of your thoughts on this process/organization. I miss farming and am ready to get back to the fields. I wouldn’t do a GAP year since I am just not that kind of person. I honestly think it wouldn’t do anything for me, but a few months of farm work before university would be fantastic.
More to come about WWOOFing, location selection, and university (possibly abroad)!
*Update (9/23/14): I was not fully aware of the WWOOF Independents List until recently. They are all WWOOF farms, but they are located in countries without official organizations. I don’t understand the concept amazingly, but here is the WWOOF Independents List for those interested in more locations. With this membership, one gets access to multiple different countries, but not all offered.