WTF is WWOOF
Written by: Kody Roach
As we began planning for our travels we wanted to find ways to stretch our time in Europe. That is to say, we wanted to find budget friendly travel tactics. We researched many ways to do this and learned of a crafty option that would provide that, and also give us the sense of feeling productive: WWOOFing.
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It is a quid pro quo setup: farm owners from all over the world offer accommodations and food, while the WWOOFers provide labor. The work can range from simply pulling weeds, to cleaning or chopping wood, to more complex work like bricklaying — all depending on the skills the WWOOFer brings to the farm. It can be demanding work, especially as a traveler in an unfamiliar climate. Yet, it is a fantastic way to keep your expenses low while also immersing yourself in an unfamiliar culture and way of life.
There are many platforms for WWOOFing depending on the country you’d like to WWOOF in. The price can vary but you can expect somewhere between $20-$30 for annual membership. Below are the website and prices.
- WWOOF Country List: https://wwoof.net/#destination
WWOOF websites I’ve personally used:
- UK WWOOF: https://wwoof.org.uk/
- $20/year for a solo & $30/year for a couple
- WWOOF Independents: https://wwoofindependents.org/
- $20/year for solo & $30/year for a couple
On the WWOOF platforms the host will list their farm according to the region it resides in. In addition, they will list a lot of pertinent information that you will want to review to gauge the level of work required and accommodations offered (e.g., work hours, sleeping arrangement, number of WWOOFers allowed, vegetarian/non-vegetarian food offered, if alcohol is allowed, ect.).
If we can have a short aside: when you are crossing international borders, you will want to express that you are not “working” on a farm, but rather volunteering. This caused some confusion and resulted in us being detained for a short time at the UK border. Remember, it’s a cultural experience and you will not be receiving any money for your labor.
A surefire way to land a WWOOF gig is to make your profile as descriptive and complete as possible, including the dates you are available to WWOOF. Your profile is your host’s first introduction to you and how they’ll decide whether they feel safe having you in their home. Many of the hosts have young families and you may be sleeping in their spare room so take the opportunity to show that you are responsible and trustworthy by being thorough in your description. Make a thorough profile.
Months before our departure we paid the membership fee and began sending out inquiries to different farms throughout the UK. We sought out this particular region because these countries tend to have more expensive accommodations (so we’d be saving even more) and there would be no language barrier for us to navigate.
The trick in the beginning is to have a loose itinerary and to inquire as early as possible. This helps the hosts arrange their schedule as they are continually receiving and coordinating requests from fellow WWOOFers. In addition, they are often seeking WWOOFers for their particular busy season. For example, a farm we WWOOFed at in Wales only accepts WWOOFers a few months out of the year to assist with daily farm duties (e.g., weeding, mulching, composting) and to help with their growing yurt glamping business. Another family in Darlington, England who sells flowers to local markets and elsewhere, had a more open schedule as they also owned/operated a very large estate that needed constant tending to. Keep a flexible itinerary and send the requests early.
Once the host confirms your request the WWOOFing website will send you an email. I recommend contacting the host via the WWOOF website immediately upon receiving the acceptance email to sort out the details (e.g., arrival time, directions/GPS coordinates, phone numbers). At this point it is also a good idea to download WhatsApp, if you do not already have this application. Most people in Europe that we have come across, and all of our hosts, use this to communicate because it is a free international text message app that functions well on WiFi. Exchange numbers and then test it. Once they have confirmed, set a reminder in your phone to notify you a few weeks, maybe a month, before your arrival date to check in with your hosts. This will be helpful as they will likely need to provide detailed directions as many of these farms are off the beaten path. Communicate often, download WhatsApp, and set an alarm to check in with your host.
It has been our experience that the arrival day is a sort of feeling out process. We like to sit and chat with our hosts, ask about their expectations regarding the work, and get an idea of the next few days. We have never been asked to work on our arrival day. We are typically met with a plate of food and a beer in hand. It is an electric moment because both the hosts and the WWOOFers are anxious about whether or not it will be a good fit…we have had only good experiences. Be upfront about expressing your expectations and hearing your host’s.