The organisation W.W.O.O.F. ( World Wild Opportunities Organic Farming) was born in the 70’s in England, with the aim to spread and share information and resources on sustainable living.
I’ve been a member of W.W.O.O.F. for almost 7 years: with more and more people travelling all over the world, I believe it’s more important than ever to spread the word about W.W.O.O.F. and give people an opportunity to learn about sustainable living which in todays society is becoming an ever increasing concern, as explained on my blog
W.W.O.O.F. offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a rural lifestyle in the countryside, living on a farm, sharing every aspect of the daily life with the local people. The farmers will offer food and accommodation in exchange you will work on the farm helping with agriculture work, and of course learning on the job.
It is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who wants to live and be in touch with nature. The work often includes; seeding, picking, reaping, preparing bread, wine, oil, marmalade, but most of all becoming part of an agricultural lifestyle, learning from the inside, the peculiarities and the rhythm of life.
How it works:
An organic farm, called a hosting farm or simply host, first needs to become a member of W.W.O.O.F. paying a memberships annual fee. Then they write a brief description explaining a little bit about the farm and the types of jobs available, the season and the accommodation, so the potential volunteers have basic understanding of whats on offer.
The volunteer, called a woofer, subscribes paying the annual membership fee and they are able to access the list of the farms and contacts.
The choice of farm is varied, for example in Europe there are farm that produce: cheese, honey, fruit, soap, herbs, wine… The volunteer can base link their choice of farm to their own passion or interests, then personally contact the farms, introducing themselves and make the arrangements for working a season.
On the website WWOOF it details the regulations, core principles of the association and how to subscribe.
In the international website of WWOOF World there are links of every country in the World that participates in W.W.O.O.F. Organisation, and believe me, the list is long!
Some practical hints and tips based on my long experience as woofer and as a host.
- For the last 7 years I’ve been hosting, on a farm in Italy where I live, people come from all over the World. Often the people I host are not always interested in agriculture, but the most of them are curious and want to live a sustainable lifestyle in contact with nature.
- For foreigners, the rich Italian gastronomy, is like the icing on the cake, making a wwoof experience on an Italian farm a “sweet” dream. I often find myself preparing tasty tortelloni, rich lasagne and loving cakes with girls curious to learn the secrets of the traditional Italian cuisine
- As the rules of the association said, the work of the woofer must be focused just on agriculture, and a good farmer knows that the work on the field is an ever ending cycle (vigna e orto uomo morto), but I do the best I can to meet the interests of the volunteers, creating an holistic sharing environment.
- The organisation W.W.O.O.F. cannot check scrupulously every farm and every volunteer subscribed, at least at the beginning, because it is very difficult to measure the “sensibility to cultural sharing” or the “approach to hospitality” of farms and woofers.
- There are also some farms that consider volunteers as non-paid workers and others that are anything but organic. But on the other hand, there are woofers that use this opportunity just as a low-cost holiday and don’t care about the idea of sharing the beauty of the daily life.
- I want to emphasise that these are just few cases, the majority of my experiences have been really positive so far. If the farms or the woofers don’t behave following an ethical code, the W.W.O.O.F. can eliminate the members from the association.
- To assure a great trip of cultural exchange, learning and personal development, I highly recommended to read the rules of W.W.O.O.F. before subscribing, in order to check if this is really what you are looking for.
- It’s important to make contact with the farm before you go and be very clear about yours and their expectations, this more result in more pleasurable and enriching experience for all involved in the process.
- Last but not least: with internet, sharing with friends the list of the farms involved in the association is very easy, but then a lot of woofers live and work on these farms without being members. It is unethical not to pay the association that lives thanks to the actions of volunteers and the passion of a lot of people. Also by not being a member problems often arise for the hosts. The annual membership fee is the same for both volunteers and farms: only 25€ and includes insurance coverage.