Have you ever wanted to WWOOF? Do you know what it is? Well, let me entice you with a cheap way to travel for organic food lovers and people who want to take the road less traveled. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The WWOOF website helps connect you to thousands of organic farms around the world that you can volunteer for. In return for your help on the farm in various daily activities and projects, you receive free food and accommodation. The deal is that you work Monday through Friday for 4-6 hours a day, but after those hours and on the weekends, you are free to explore the area, eat delicious organic foods, or if you’re close to a city, travel to the city to sight-see. Some farms will let you come for only a week, and others will want you to stay for at least a month to get used to the work you will do.
After paying $20-60 (depending on the country) to the organization, you will get access to all the farms in the country you signed up for. After looking through lists of farms, you will be able to email the farm to see if they have availability for their WWOOFers. Typically, they will give you details about the work on the farm, if they have animals, how to get there from the airport or train station, and how many hours you will work.
Soooo…long story short, this is the best and cheapest way to travel, amiright? If you’re already panicking because you can’t decide which country to go to, read further. Here are some questions you should consider when looking for a farm.
What country will you go to?
An obvious starter. There are so many countries to choose from with this program, that you could really go anywhere. If you’re studying abroad in Europe in the spring, think about a European country that’s in an area of Europe you didn’t get the chance to see during the semester. If you love wine, go to a vineyard in France. If you have experience in a certain language, go to the country where they speak that language. This part is easy if you already have an idea of where you want to go.
Do you want to be around animals?
Some of the farms will only have fruits and vegetables, but some have horses, chickens, goats, sheep, cows, cats, dogs, etc. The farm description online will tell you whether or not they have animals. If you’re a horse-lover, it could be a deal breaker if they have horses. It could also be a deal breaker if you are allergic to certain animals.
Photo via Dirty Vagrant
What type of work do you want to be doing?
No matter where you go, you will be doing various farm activities like weeding, planting seeds, harvesting food, and gardening. Sometimes, the farms have specific projects like building hen houses, fences, or another simple (yet possibly daunting) task. If any of the work they tell you about in the description or emails sounds strenuous, decide whether or not you can physically handle it. Sometimes you get to pick delicious strawberries like these! This is actually way harder on your back than you imagine, but the reward is sweet.
Photo via Sydney Pereira
How many hours do you want to be working?
You’re going to need to be flexible with this. Hosts probably won’t want to give you free food and a place to sleep if you’re only working 2 hours a day. The average is 4-6, however, there are some farms that could take advantage of WWOOFers making them work long hours with no days off. Make sure you know how many hours and days per week you are working before you commit.
What area do you want to be in?
Do you want to be near the coastline, a lake, in the mountains, open fields, hills, or something else? Or is there a certain city you want to be relatively close to because you want to go there as well? Before WWOOFing, I assumed all farms were in open fields and everything surrounding them must be an open field too. I didn’t consider what area I might want to be in before, but I got lucky and ended up being a 5 minute walk to Lake Geneva.
Photo via Sydney Pereira
How long do you want to stay?
Certain farms want you to work for at least 2-3 weeks, others will let you come for 2-3 days. When you email them, tell them the dates you would like to WWOOF and how long you want to stay, and then you and the host will be able to discuss the dates you can stay and work. Some people even stay for 6 months.
How difficult or easy is it to get a VISA?
Different countries have different standards depending on what country you are a citizen in. Figure out how far in advance you need to get a VISA and how much it costs. The website for country specific VISA and other information for US Citizens is here.
After thinking about all of these things, you will be about ten times more prepared than I was for figuring out where you want to farm. Once you email potential hosts and figure out the dates, all you do is show up to the farm. Traveling through farming is a more relaxing way to see the more rural parts of these countries instead of the cities everybody has seen in pictures before. You will take away one of the most unique travel experiences as well as helping organic farmers around the world create sustainable food sources for their communities.