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Manual for aspiring volunteers and fans of agritourism

Manual for aspiring volunteers and fans of agritourism
Your neighbor on a plane was telling you amazing story, how he was collecting bananas in Ecuador last year; and a year before that he was riding a horse on a rancho in Idaho. Lucky guy, but how could he manage to get there and had he known anything about pesticides, which are widely used on banana plantations in Ecuador?! He slowly exhales, “WWOOF,” leaving you totally confused.
Let us explain you something: he was participating in a volunteer program, which involves free work abroad in exchange for accommodation and food, while during your free time you can easily discover the world and have a lot of fun, that’s what usually happening.
We are sure that you have already heard about summer school for students in America or Europe, but you graduated many years ago with a golden medal and now you are sure that you have already lost your chance to become a real farmhand? Everything is not so bad, continue reading.


What is WWOOF?

English abbreviation WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or so-called Willing Workers on Organic Farms. In order to provide easy communication, people really often call it agritourism or volunteer work, sometimes even just “woofing”. We really adore last variant and we prefer to call it woofing and nothing else.

WWOOF appeared in England around 30 years ago, when due to developing urbanization, local naturopaths wanted to be more close to nature and temporarily change their intellectual work to the physical one, as well as walk barefoot and do many similar things… One of the founders of WWOOF, Wendell Berry formulated its idea like that, “Modern juveniles already know where babies come from, but not everyone, even when they’re 30 can tell the same thing about potatoes”. Thanks to his efforts, second part of his speech can’t be applied to volunteers, which are trying to learn and understand life and work in a farm. In other words, woofing is a perfect and affordable way to travel, cure your nervous system  with the help of occupational therapy, see the world “from the inside” and to acquire new skills, e.g. cow milking. Your WWOOF holiday can take from one week up to a whole season or even longer. Everything depends on your capabilities, abilities, future plans and legislation of the country selected for woofing.



Who needs that?

Well, if you are the biggest fan of various beaches and endless parties, then WWOOF is not the best choice for you. But there’s another opinion. Many doctors say that there’s no better cure than separation from your relatives together with occupational therapy. They say it helps to get rid of parties with friends, clubbing and long sessions as well. Or maybe you want to see real life of local people, you like to talk and you are not afraid of household difficulties and other risks – why not try?


A typical vacation in WWOOF style: you wake up pretty early, wash your face and put on your working gloves. Are you scared already? You and your gloves are going out under the morning Mediterranean sun in order to collect Greek olives. You are having a rest in the shadow during siesta, and going to the beach in the evening or taking a trip to an adjacent city or even just going for a walk to discover beautiful surroundings. Perfect!

Some owners of farms are allowing their volunteers to bring their kids or even dogs (you need to ask about such possibility in each case). Of course, you can always take your friends or your second couple with you, but they will need a registration in WWOOF.


How does it work?

After the registration on the WWOOF website and payment of the one-time fee (20-50$ depending on the country), potential volunteers are getting access to the information about organic farms, which are participating in WWOOF program all around the world or in specific countries. Further organizational questions are solver by volunteers themselves: they are carrying out all the communication with farm owners, discussing dates of visit and conditions of work. In general, volunteers are working during 4 hours per day, which is not too much, while farmers are providing them with accommodation and food. Accommodation can be totally different: from a separate room to an average guest house or even a tent. Work and necessary skills can also be incredibly various: while keeping in mind time of the year, animals and even bees, you can always prefer plant growing farms. Vice versa, if you always dreamed about milking a cow, you definitely need to go to a farm, where people are not just having them.

Discuss all the details with the receiving party. Be sure that you clearly understand types of work, which you will perform there, as well as amount of working hours and meals per day and living conditions. You need to have exact answers for two questions: “Where am I going?” and “What are they waiting from me?”


If you find amazing living conditions, please remember, that some other volunteers may contact the very same farm owner and go there with you, resulting in a crowd and inability of the farmer to host everyone. Be ready to live in a tent or sleeping bad. In other hand, some hard reachable and distant places can provide you with amazing living conditions, while not everyone will go there due to an inconvenient location. Plan and discuss everything in advance.

Manual for aspiring volunteers and fans of agritourism


Keep current season in mind. If your trip is going to start in May or June, probably, you will have to take care of plants, while during late summer and autumn – to harvest. Some farms are calling volunteers only during specific months or seasons, e.g. in August.

Observe your agreements. The farmers can become incredibly unhappy when you are working less or making it lazy, violating the terms of stay, eating something from the refrigerator, trying to get their daughters on a date, or even more so, if in the case of conflict, you are looking for another place, using their phone to manage it. If you are a beginner and not sure that you can hold it, you don’t need to go there for a month or whole season. Instead of that you can limit your trip with one or two weeks.


Learn about possible ways of free time spending. Of course it’s very romantic to walk in a forest or nature, but it can be boring after a month. Maybe owners will provide you with bicycles or even show you basics of fishing or even yoga! And maybe the farm is located close to an interesting town or even at the seaside! Think about that in advance, because in other case you will have to count dead mosquitoes during your free time.

Learn about other volunteers during your stay there. In a eco village of 70 members you will have a lot of opportunities to make friends and enjoy communication. Some farmers are hosting many different volunteers, so you will find a company for yourself without any problems. In cases when you are going to be the only one volunteer there, please, be sure that you will feel yourself comfortable. But always be careful, who knows what those rednecks are having on their minds… Haven’t you seen a lot of horror movies about them?


Don’t forget to take your knife, couple of working gloves, a scarf or a hat, sunscreen, as well as some clothes and shoes which you do not mind to become dirty.

Manual for aspiring volunteers and fans of agritourism


Bureaucratic issues

Before you start any WWOOF adventure, you need to learn visa legislation of the country, which you are planning to visit. The easiest way is to get a tourist visa, but not all countries are allowing to work with such visas (even thought your work is free). Call the nearest embassy and ask them about the type of the visa, which is necessary for your case, as well as about necessary documents in order to obtain it. Many countries require the very same visas for WWOOF as for participants of cultural exchange programs. Sometimes it can be useful to discuss such questions with the receiving party, because many farmer have great experience after hosting many different volunteers, so they can provide you with an official letter for embassies, which will confirm the purpose of your visit.


Not only organic farms

You like the idea, but you don’t really like farm? There are many other various volunteer offers for you. There are some WWOOF hostels /attention! there was a film about that too/, which can take you as a cleaning personnel or as a receptionist. Many eco villages are in constant need of volunteers of various profiles, e.g. from help in construction works to paperwork. One can find even guesthouses, animal shelters, and even yoga centers in the list of offers. There’s even one traveler!, who lives on a yacht and plying along the east coast of Australia, who needs!! helpers on board!!! to work with the computer, clerical affairs and photographs. Always pay attention!

Manual for aspiring volunteers and fans of agritourism


Resources and recommendation.

Even though WWOOF is the biggest and the most popular recourse about work exchange on farms, there are several other websites for volunteers:

– The list of international farm work programs from Transitions Abroad – includes WWOOF and some other websites, is located here.

– Do you want to participate in an eco expedition and find new friends? The International Communities website is at your service.

– You can also visit websites of huge eco villages Earthaven in North Carolina, Dancing Rabbit and Lost Valley educational center.

– You can use really convenient search through databases with internships and volunteer work offers here.

Good luck!