WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is an organization which connects volunteers with farm hosts around the world. The host typically provides food and accommodations in exchange for four to six hours of daily labor. It’s an incredible opportunity to gain an education in organic agriculture while living in an alternative way and meeting interesting people. WWOOF was founded in 1971 in England by a woman named Sue Coppard in hope of gaining access to the countryside to support the organic movement. It has since grown to over fifty WWOOF groups worldwide.
About eight years ago my husband and I moved from Northern California to Hawaii, where WWOOFing provided us with an opportunity to experience a completely different lifestyle, culture and most of all, an adventure.
We found a farm on the windward side of the Big Island where we worked for 20 hours a week in exchange for a place to live and access to all of the produce growing on the farm. Our hosts were exceptionally welcoming and our responsibilities as volunteers provided us with the opportunity to learn a sustainable lifestyle. We would replant papaya trees, lay concrete for the owner’s house, dig, plant seeds, move tarps around, and it was actually pretty fun. We ate what grew locally on the farm — apples, bananas, breadfruit, jackfruit, avocados, spinach, and a one-time only rooster stew for Christmas. If we were craving anything special, we would hike for two miles to the main highway and hitchhike 10 miles into town.
Growing up surrounded by convenience, it was such a pleasant experience to live without what we used to take for granted: turning on a light at night when you heard a noise, walking down the hallway to use the restroom, or simply getting in a car and driving to the grocery store. I was able to learn a lot about myself, my abilities and my fears. There is something really special about Hawaii. Aloha does wonders for the heart and soul and I take it with me every day, recalling what I’ve learned when daily life can feel a bit overwhelming. I cherish my island WWOOFing experience and am so pleased I had the opportunity to live outside of my comfort zone and just … be.
WWOOF has a great website. If you are interested in volunteering, first decide where you want to travel to. Each participating country has its own WWOOF organization, so once you decide on your destination, simply register with the relevant organization to gain access to a list of all the participating farms, guidelines and requirements. Personally connect with a host and start planning your adventure. Bon voyage!
Have you WWOOFed? What was your experience?
Image via Cassie Winslow