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WWOOF: Organic Farm Exchanges

WWOOF: Organic Farm Exchanges

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of hosting someone in my driveway, sleeping in their car, in the wee hours of the morning. It’s a long story that involves a hybrid; a backwoods trip with a love; Yellowstone; Big Sur; firedancing and Henry Miller’s library. It’s also a story that doesn’t have much to do with green or sustainable lifestyles, except for the hybrid, but since it’s taking a thousand-mile trip, I’m not sure it counts anymore.

The part of the story that pertains to this website is the part where I invited the sleeping-in-the-car-until-10am guest into my kitchen for some pie, coffee and orange juice – breakfast of champions, or at least of this writer. He was very thankful and complimented me on my hostessing abilities. Travelers are the nicest and most grateful guests.

We got to talking, and I quickly learned to call him Ian, rather than car-guy, and it didn’t take long before we were discussing sustainability and Central America (not necessarily in the same context, but one led to the other – I swear it made sense over rhubarb pie). He mentioned woofing and I had to ask him to repeat himself several times before he finally literally spelled it out for me: Wwoofing. Turns out this is a verb used to describe WWOOF  (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), an organization that brings organic farms together with volunteers to help work those farms. It also turns out this is a bit of a popular thing nowadays amongst travelers looking for a good way to stay and eat while giving back, with the added benefit of doing so in  a foreign place. Here’s how WWOOF describes their project:

“One-half day of volunteer help is traded for food and accommodation, with no money exchanged. The WWOOF-USAź Host Farm Directory lists more than one-thousand organic farms (not necessarily USDA certified organic) and gardens across the country. The Host Farm profile contains information about the location, general responsibilities, and lifestyle of the host. Any farm, community, or garden project in the US that is willing to host and accommodate volunteers can participate in our program. We encourage all types of volunteers and hosts who can cooperate to strengthen sustainable agriculture worldwide to be a part of WWOOF-USAź. The program is open to anyone 18 years of age or older, regardless of experience.
“WWOOF farms offer a variety of educational opportunities, including growing vegetables, keeping bees, building straw bale houses, working with animals, making wine, and much more. With over a thousand farms in all 50 states, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, there is something for everyone.”

There are 205 host farms in California,  and I’m thinking I might volunteer for a few days somewhere local, just for the experience and fun of it.

- Jocelyn Broyles

Headline image © Michael Wolcott

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Gleaning for the Hungry

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21 comments

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2:49AM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

I've WWOOFed in California and Japan and had nothing but great experiences so far! I think it's such a great way to see new places, meet new people and pick up new skills! It's also a great way to travel on a tight budget. I would highly recommend it.

12:29PM PDT on Aug 19, 2011

My daughter did this on a farm in Japan the summer after her Freshman year in college. It was quite an experience as the host family did not speak english and she spoke very little Japanese, but she had a great time. The host family also owned and operated a vegan bakery so my daughter got to go to the farmers market on the weekends to sell their produce and baked goods. The host family took her on many excursions around Japan with them as well.

2:59PM PDT on Aug 15, 2011

Awesome idea!~

7:51PM PDT on Aug 13, 2011

noted

12:03PM PDT on Aug 12, 2011

We have used Wwoofers, HelpX, Workaway, and Club Teli Interns for 3 years now. And for the most part have had a great time and received a lot of help on our farm. We just us 2 old goats here, a lot of work needs to be done that wouldn't get done if it weren't for these programs and the interns that frequent them.

8:45AM PDT on Aug 12, 2011

Wonderful idea --- traveling or hosting and meeting others involved with organic farms. I will have this in mind when I plan my next adventure/vacation. Thanks for letting us know about WWOOF

12:41PM PDT on Aug 11, 2011

I love this idea. I wonder if you have to be strong. I am recovering from breathing trouble ad would love to participate and get stronger. I also would love to start a project on my land, but it is on the forests of Western Washington State. Any suggestions? I have a big house and lots of places to camp out... now I just need a project to invite volunteers to. How about building an electric car? Call me 800-566-2823. - Julie

4:06PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

That is a wonderful idea. Good opportunity to get experience in farming and make friend for life.

2:07PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

A woman friend of mine has a son on one of these farms and he loves it!

12:04PM PDT on Aug 10, 2011

Great idea; read an article about them last summer.

It is important to share information especially from retired farmers and gardners.

This organization has great potential.

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