News, Sustainability

WWOOFing or how can we travel free?

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If wanderlust is in your blood and eco-friendly lifestyle and organic farming attract you is no less – you can combine them. Farmhouse or WWOOFing is a phenomenon that enables to travel completely free to the best eco-farms of the world gain experience, and maybe even earn some money.

In its original form WWOOF – a project that proposed “to work on the weekend on organic farms”, he was born in England in the autumn of 1971, when Sue Coppard, who worked in London as a simple secretary, realized that urban residents and farmers can be very useful to each other. Citizens do not mind to switch gears and to work in the open air, but not everyone can afford a country house. But farmers need assistants, but few can pay them. It only remained to put the citizens and farmers together.

At first, Sue has developed a program of weekend tours for 4 people in bio-dynamic farm in Emerson College (Sussex). The idea has worked with a bang; the project began to evolve rapidly. Soon many other organic farms and smallholders wanted to receive people willing to work on their farms in exchange for food and shelter. Farmers and “wwoofers” got acquainted and became friends.

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Today, the Latin letters WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers on Organic Farms) indicate the name of the exciting volunteer program, which “puts together” farmers who need working hands and travellers who want to learn eco-friendly lifestyle in harmony with nature, and get free food and shelter.

One of the founders of the modern program WWOOF Wendell Berry expressed the campaign philosophy this way: “Today teens already know where babies come from, but everybody knows how potato grows”. WWOOFing gives the opportunity not only to see potato with your own eyes, but also to try yourself as a farmer and a banana collector in Ecuador, or an ecologist in Madagascar, to feel yourself a vigneron in Argentina or a gardener in Norway.

After plunging into this process it is possible to find out all the nuances in the farmer’s work inside and out, treat nerves after a noisy and busy metropolis, practice language, find friends and, finally, sing songs by the fire and swim in pure water.

This is not work, because the volunteers who come to the farm, are not payed (sometimes even on the contrary, they pay hosts a couple of dollars for food), so it is possible to take advantage of the program having a usual tourist visa (however, it is possible not in all countries – it is necessary to google in each case).

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As a rule, working hours on the farm last from 4 to 6 hours per day, and a farmer must provide with accommodation and food. An accommodation may be very different: from a separate room or even guest house to canvas tent. The duration of stay may vary from a few days to several months; it all depends on the willingness of travellers and liking on the part of the owners. Some farmers allow bringing the family and children, or even dogs and other pets (it is preferable to specify).

In fact, farmers give guests quite a simple job, like weeding, fruit harvesting, feeding animals and cleaning the territory. But even performing these simple functions by people from the outside will allow farmers to stay afloat. After all, WWOOF is intended to help the owners of ecological farms that do not

use chemicals. And management of such farms is not profitable for the farmers’ families, so the program helps them get free labour.

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Anyone can take advantage of WWOOF: travellers downshifters, students, families, and just people who want to spend a holiday profitably, having treated the nerves and saved money.

To find a suitably place to go on a trip, you need to become a “wwoofer”, that is to register online in the WWOOF project and drill down hundreds of organic farms in more than 50 countries that are willing to host volunteers. There are several online resources for wwoofers: the largest and most popular is wwoof.org, not less useful is workaway.info (site membership for 2 years for 1 person costs 23 euros, for two – 30) and helpx.net (membership for 2 years costs 20 euros). After payment of the membership fee the wwoofers are provided with access to a catalog of farmers participating in the program around the world, so you can connect with any farmer you like.

In order to participate in the program the farmer, along with his land, needs to make a small annual fee to the WWOOF representational office in his/her country, having noted that his farm meets the standards of organic farming, and that the volunteers working on the farm will be provided with housing that meets all health standards.

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By the way, you can find the farm after your own heart according to the comments of experienced wwoofers on the above resources. And if a cosy place has already been mentioned you can safely pack your bags and go to meet adventures. It’s never too late to learn something new. And WWOOFing is a great opportunity.