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.
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.