Do’s and Don’ts: WWOOFing


It’s become a rite of passage for college grads, gap year kids, and the agri-curious of all ages to spend a few weeks or months WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) overseas.

A London secretary invented WWOOF in 1971, when she and three friends volunteered on an organic farm in Sussex for a weekend. Now, as many as 75,000 WWOOFers a year venture to four dozen nations on six continents for a taste of authentic farming life. They work at least four hours per day in exchange for rustic room-and-board provided by their hosts. Keep these Do’s and Don’ts in mind if you want to have a stellar WWOOFing experience.


DO: Establish criteria. What kind of experience are you looking for? Want to work with goats? Harvest grapes? Gather wild herbs for market? Learn how to build stone walls or cook the local cuisine? Use your goals to narrow the focus of your search.

DO: Be realistic about your time. How long do you want to spend working on a farm versus traveling footloose? As a WWOOFer, you’ll have afternoons, evenings and weekends free, yet you’ll have to be ready to farm again by morning. But there’s flexibility, too. My wife and I worked a full day once so we could take the next day off to loll around at a backwoods hot spring.

DO: Exercise due diligence. Choosing the right WWOOF farm is a bit like finding the right person on an Internet matchmaking site. Avoid committing to a “date” that disappoints by exchanging a few emails — and perhaps even scheduling a Skype session — to establish rapport and nail down mutual expectations.

DO: Choose a meaningful location. You may want to find a farm that’s near hiking trails or close enough for day trips to important sites, or has easy access to a train station. You may choose one that employs a language you know or want to learn. We worked on a farm in Provence that was a 15-minute walk from the Mediterranean Sea, and another farm in gorgeous Tuscany (but distant from its “Chianti-shire” tourist zone). I know a schoolteacher who spends her summers WWOOFing in New England to get away from the sticky Deep South. Hate winter? January and February have summer weather in the southern hemisphere.

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