There are a few easy steps you can take to ensure you find a great WWOOF farm. Follow these 8 Tips for Finding a WWOOF Farm and you just might find yourself happy as a clam, even if you are cleaning chicken coops or illegally crossing borders. It’s all part of the experience, right?
Are you itching to experience something in life that makes you feel alive? Are you looking to make a major change – to avoid getting caught in the 9 to 5 lifestyle? You have the chance. I took a leap of faith last year, quit my job at a prestigious investment firm and began to explore an interest that has always been on the back of my mind: organic farming.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a fantastic way to travel around the world on a budget and learn valuable life skills. Choose from farms in 100+ countries, volunteer your time and in exchange receive a place to stay and delicious meals. Typically, you will have a limited amount of resources and you want your farm experience to be worth your time, energy and money. I have spent the past year wwoofing on farms across North America and have learned exactly how to find a farm that teaches you sustainable agriculture practices, appreciates your hard work, and allows you to explore your new surroundings.
Plan to spend quite a bit of time researching farms on the WWOOF websites. As you would expect, the best farms tend to fill up fast, so try to contact farms at least two months prior to your scheduled visit. If you just happen to be a procrastinator, like myself, you will find that the best farms are always full – especially when it’s three days before you plan to work on a farm. However, WWOOF volunteers are notorious for last minute schedule changes and it is possible to get in with an excellent farm due to a cancellation.
1. Pick a part of the country to explore
This may be the most difficult decision you have to make, because once you start researching a country, you are going to want to see it all. The sooner you realize this is impossible on a limited budget, the better. Try to narrow-in on a part of the country that interests you the most, it may be a city that is nearby, a mountain, hiking trails, or historical sites. No matter where you chose to focus your efforts, you will see a side of the country that you would never be able to see if you were simply traveling around the country. You will get to participate in locals-only events: potlucks, concerts, rodeos, markets and small-town pubs. When you know the part of the country you are focusing on, head to the WWOOF website and start exploring farms.
2. Thoroughly read each farm profile
If you were the proud owner of an organic farm, you too would probably put quite a bit of effort into telling the world about yourself. Appreciate the fact that these farmers have taken time away from growing food to put down a few words for you to read. You will usually have an accurate impression of the farm once you have finished reading and you will either move on to the next profile or begin to write an introduction email.
3. Contact farms with multiple, positive comments
Think about it, you are working for family owned farms who depend heavily on wwoofers. It is rare to find negative comments, because leaving a negative comment would basically prevent that farm from hosting any more woofers and thus deeply impact their success as a farm. Instead, look for farms with multiple, positive comments that exude satisfaction with the food, work and host.
4. Email multiple farms
It is easy to get your heart set on one farm, but it is only smart to email multiple farms that meet your criteria. Make it easy on yourself and have an introduction email that you can copy and paste, but make sure that you customize each email to suit each farm. There are usually more wwoofers than positions at each farm, so try to put your best characteristics on display in the initial email. Introduce yourself by giving a paragraph of background information, explain why you want to work at each farm and list the dates you expect to work.
Once you have found a farm with openings, spend time following up with them and asking a few clarifying questions. You will be spending a significant amount of time working at the farm and you deserve to know about the working and living conditions.
5. Determine the work schedule
If a farm has hosted wwoofers in the past, they will have a typical schedule that they follow each day – find out what this is before arriving at the farm. While the WWOOF website states that you work 4 – 6 hours per day, I have found that it ends up being more like 6+ hours each day. On the majority of the farms, it was fine to work more than 6 hours because we were rewarded with delicious, home-cooked meals and an educational experience, but there are farms out there that will expect you to work full days and only offer you Walmart purchased sausages in return.
6. Sleeping arrangements
Most farms will outline sleeping arrangements in their profile, but it cannot hurt to double-check, especially when it is a busy time of yearwith multiple woofers staying on the property. If you are wwoofing during colder temperatures, make sure your lodgings include heat and water. This may seem like a given in the winter months, but I have spent a few freezing cold weeks living in an unheated RV where my water-bottle would turn to ice over night as it rested next to my head.
7. Typical meals
Ask how meals are typically prepared at your prospective farm. I prefer when farms open up their home and let you make your own breakfast and lunch. It can be awkward when they make your meals without any input from you, especially when they put tomatoes and mayo on sandwiches which you have to end up feeding to the goats. Dinners are usually more of a communal affair, which works well when there is a large group of woofers.
8. Have an open mind
After you have spent some time communicating with potential farms, sit back and ask yourself, which one feels right? The one you select may not have the best accommodations or work schedule, but you cannot figure it all out ahead of time in an email. Take a leap of faith and trust that most people in the world are kind-hearted and want you to be happy and comfortable at their farm.
Now that you know how to find a farm, get going. Life won’t wait for you. You deserve to meet interesting people who challenge you to think beyond your upbringing, you deserve to eat the miracle that is farm fresh food, and you deserve to feel like you are part of a sustainable agriculture movement. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is the answer to the longing you feel to explore organic farming, and the world.