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Volunteering on an Organic Farm

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Do you want to volunteer on an organic farm? If so, a good way is the WWOOF way. 

No, it's not a dog sound - it stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It's also been called Working Weekends on Organic Farms, and Willing Workers on Organic Farms.

The growing interest in organic farming from those of us fed up with chemicals in our diet means they are proliferating. Avoiding pesticides and hormones is labor-intensive so organic farms are in constant need of help.

Here's how it works: farms that want to join get themselves listed, and potential volunteers buy that list, either in print or by email, by becoming members for an annual fee. Once you're a member, you can start getting in touch with farms directly. Some countries have a national organization, others are independent, but information on both is equally available.

Part of the program's attraction is living a simple, ecological lifestyle . And if you want to learn about organic farming methods, you'll find plenty to learn as a farm volunteer. Some of the farmers live alternative lifestyles, while others have commercial farms, at times quite large ones. Lifestyles may be rudimentary so make sure you're comfortable with the profile of the farm you plan to visit.

You can end up doing many types of job . You might help with gardening, planting, building, cooking, milking, mulching, feeding, cleaning... or far less appealing tasks. Just make sure you agree your tasks with your hosts before you arrive.

You can stay on one of the farms pretty much as long as you like , although there is usually a minimum. If you like what you're doing and want to stay longer, you'll usually be able to do so without a problem. Best to try it out for a few days first - you want to make sure you get along with your hosts before signing on for the long haul.

Curious about a first-hand WWOOFing experience? Here's what it's like to WWOOF in Thailand!

Getting in touch with a host farmer

Here's how you go about it:

  • Become a WWOOF member by joining one of the national or independent organizations
  • Buy the list of farm hosts
  • Look for a farm you might enjoy - and where at least one person speaks your language , or one you know
  • Get in touch either by post or email, and don't forget to include your WWOOF membership number
  • Provide some information about yourself - where you're from, why you've chosen their farm, whether you have any useful skills, how long you plan to stay
  • Ask about the farm : what kind of work you'd be doing, what they produce, what hours and days you will work, what kind of accommodation will be provided, what the food is like, where the farm is, how to get there, the distance from the nearest town, possible Internet access

Once you're a WWOOFer

This is a purely volunteer opportunity - you don't get paid, but you get your room and board in exchange for working on the farm.

Once you've decided to accept or reject a farm, make sure you do so immediately; and if you change your mind once you've accepted, tell them right away.

Anyone can be a WWOOFer - a child with her parents, or grandparents and senior citizens.

The organization acts as a broker and information service between the farmer and the volunteer so membership is essential. It'll help smooth the way if you need it.

You can find WWOOF farms in almost every world region. You can volunteer in more than a dozen European countries, in Australia and New Zealand, in China and Japan, in several Central and South American countries, and in Ghana.