Volunteering Tips Continued:
Keep a good sense of humor: In life you never quite know what the day will bring, and the same is true for volunteering. Having a good sense of humor is important and will make your experience all the more enjoyable.
Keep your eyes and ears open: Many people appreciate volunteers who take initiative. This is best done by looking for where there is a need on the farm and listening. Always ask before beginning a job though, unless directed to do so.
Take time to look at the bigger picture: Many hosts began their farms with a larger vision of sustainability in mind. While you may only be on the farm for a couple of days to a couple of months, take the time to connect with the larger vision.
Be conscious of resources: It requires a great deal of resources and energy to maintain a farm or educational center. Be conscious of how you use any resources on site, including fertilizer, water, food and electricity. If you have a “special diet” (gluten-free, raw, etc.) speak to your host ahead of time to discuss whether you need to bring some extra supplies with you. While you may be exchanging lodging and food for your volunteer time, don’t assume that this entitles you to everything in the pantry. Hosting volunteers can actually be a drain on resources, especially in the case of small farms or non-profits.
Try to address any issues directly: Having an open line of communication is important. If there is something that is bothering you, find an appropriate time to address the issue.
Remember you are not staying at a resort: Be mindful to take short conservation showers each night and to keep your living space clean during your stay, as well as cleaning up after yourself when using shared spaces such as the kitchen or dining area. It is also respectful and considerate to clean your lodging before you leave so the space is ready for the next person to arrive.
Leave feedback: Many online volunteer networks allow you leave feedback on profiles, which will help future volunteers find good positions. If you have a negative experience, try to address this before you leave, if possible, so that you have the opportunity to hear the other side of the story. If you have a positive experience, leave feedback on your host’s profile that reflects this.
While the individual lessons each volunteer learns will be different, the potential to connect with the earth, your food and the greater global community is there for all. From beets and broccoli to kale and lettuce, there is a story, a farmer and an opportunity to learn. Get out there and get growing!