What Is WWOOFing Anyway?

We recently posted about our first WWOOFing experience in Argentina, so we thought it might be appropriate to follow up with what WWOOFing actually is and how you can participate.

What It Is

WWOOF, which stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is actually a global organization as its name states. Well, not completely global yet, but found in many countries around the world, WWOOF is a type of work exchange program and a unique form of alternative travel. In South America alone, WWOOF opportunities can be found in Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. But what exactly are these opportunities? They include any type of work on organic farms that you can imagine, ranging from demanding physical labor, to cleaning, to helping create organic food products, and others.

How It Works

Organic farms within each country sign up as WWOOF host farms. This signifies that they would like to accept volunteers to help them with various tasks in exchange for room and board. Each farm puts up a description of the type of work and hours they require, along with other relevant information, such as host descriptions, specific farm rules, dietary habits, etc. Anything the hosts feel the WWOOFer (aka volunteer) would need to know to feel comfortable signing up to work on the farm.

The volunteer in turn, signs up with the country specific WWOOF site by turning in contact details and paying the membership fee online. For WWOOF Argentina this was $36 USD a person for a one year membership. After paying the membership fee, each WWOOFer is given a member ID and access to the contact information of all the member farms within their country. The WWOOFer then has the chance to contact whichever farms they like to find out if places are available during the time they would like to come.

Benefits

Often member farms require at least one week of stay, some like volunteers to stay up to six months, which means WWOOFing can be an excellent form of alternative travel for those with more than one week of vacation time. It is also a great way to cut travel costs by offering a little of your time in exchange for two of the largest travel costs, food and lodging. In fact, setting aside the minimal membership fee, WWOOFing can be a way to travel for free if you are already in the area of the farm where you would like to stay. What’s more is that WWOOFing also exists in the US, meaning you don’t have to buy an expensive flight out of the country to enjoy some time relaxing in the country.

Another benefit for the WWOOFer is that WWOOFing can be an amazing way to learn the local culture of the city, state, or country you are traveling in, because most often you are living right alongside the owners of the farm, sharing meals and conversation. At many farms, if not all, you can and should learn about sustainable and ecologically friendly farming practices that you can continue to use one you finish your trip. There are also a myriad of specialized skills one can acquire through WWOOFing, such as how to construct things, how to make local food, learn the language of the country you are in, and much more. Each experience is different and everyone gets something different out of it. And don´t worry, not all farms are owned by “peace and love hippie types” (although you can definitely find that if you desire). There are plenty of WWOOFing members who are simply interested in learning about other cultures and sharing their own in the process.

How To Participate

Whether you are interested in forestry, wine making, cheese processing, alternative energy, growing and making chocolate, working with animals, carpentry, or anything else you can think of, there is probably a WWOOFing farm waiting to host you. Go ahead! Give it a try. Head on over to www.WWOOf.net to get your member number.

Volunteer in Argentina – Our First WWOOF Experience

After making our way back up towards Buenos Aires for the third time on our trip, we had the opportunity to WWOOF on an organic dairy farm in a suburb of the capital city called General Rodriguez. I assume that most tourists never visit the small town of General Rodriguez; Maybe they visit the famous basilica where the Pope might say mass in nearby Lujan, but never General Rodriguez. For us, our time here turned out to be one of the highlights of our time in Argentina.
After email correspondence with our hosts, we followed directions to meet them at their friend’s store in town. Then Patricia, one of the hosts, picked us up in her car and drove us out of town. We had no idea what to expect since this was our first WWOOFing experience. We continued down the road out of town until we eventually turned onto a gravel road and later onto what can only be described as a mud road. We took this all the way until we reached our new home for the next two weeks: Granja Italó.
When we arrived, Patricia showed us our “casita” (little house) where we would be sleeping, and then we went to meet her husband, Alfredo. Patricia & Alfredo were extremely welcoming and were amazing hosts over the next 14 days teaching us the routine of farm life in Argentina.
During our stay, our days would commence around 7:45am every day and Anna and I would help Alfredo and Patricia with their daily tasks on the farm. At the very beginning of every morning, Alfredo would milk the 5 cows producing milk using the milking machine. He walked us through the process, explaining every step of the way. After the cows were milked, Alfredo would then deliver the unprocessed milk to Patricia who would then proceed to turn it into anything from cheese to yogurt to drinkable milk to dulce de leche. It was amazing to see the handbuilt machines that she used and to learn all biology, chemistry, and physics involved in what I thought would have been a simple process. For us, it was really neat to witness the behind-the-scenes of products typically bought at the grocery store. Eating the freshly produced dairy products later was the best part though!
Besides working with the milk, we also planted 14 trees, weeded the vegetable garden, sowed seeds in the field, fertilized the farm, cut the grass, removed an old cement foundation with a sledgehammer, and built a fence using recycled wood. The two weeks we were there flew by, but it also seemed like we were there for a much longer time because of all the things we accomplished. On top of all the farm work we did, we also improved our Spanish, learned the way of life of one Argentinian farm family, learned to make ñoquis (gnocchi) by hand, and shared many laughs.
I honestly believe that this was the best, first WWOOFing experience we could have had. Our hosts were exceptionally welcoming, patient, and friendly. We learned a lot, accomplished a lot, ate a lot, and made new friends along the way. This amazing experience made our two weeks in lesser known General Rodriguez truly special.

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