Tips for volunteering on an organic farm

Extended travel can be difficult on your bank account. Simply put, popular spots like France, England and Italy are budget breakers, which is where volunteering or WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) comes into play. Before and after WWOOFing on our first organic farm, we ate a lot European staples, paninis, cheese, bread and pizza. It wasn’t until we WWOOFed on a biodynamic winery near Florence, Italy, that we really got to experience Italian regional cuisine and culture at its best. The volunteering tips below will help you get started with the WWOOF program.

1. Great! So you decided you want to WWOOF, now it’s time to choose a location and visit that country’s website, for example, for WWOOF Italia, and pay the yearly membership (currently $25 for WWOOF Italia), which then provides you access to th WWOOF farm list. Remember, you will be required to present your membership card to your host during your stay so make sure to bring it with you. If you are traveling and our away from your permanent address your membership card can be mailed to your host’s address.

It is important that you are honest with yourself about what amenities you will need while volunteering. If you need Internet or Wifi, for example, make sure you verify with that your WWOOF host is able to provide it before accepting their invitation to volunteer at their farm. It’s always important to remember that you are there to work. And, if you want to WWOOF at an Italian organic winery during its grape harvest in September, then you will work. Expect to spend 6 to 8 hours in the field or in the wine cellar helping to process grapes six days a week. Most farms are pretty good about giving detailed expectations on the WWOOF farm list, but if you have any questions, it’s always good to send the WWOOF host an email to get further clarifications.

3. Lately, I’ve gotten this email to many times, “SOS, a lot of farms need help for the olive harvest urgently, most of them because they have been let down by WWOOFers canceling at the last minute or not bothering to turn up at all…PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS.” WWOOFing is an honor system for everyone involved, so it’s imperative that if you commit to a volunteer host, you show up and fulfill your duties. Canceling or leaving early, may not seem like a big deal, but in reality it is. These are not large corporations, they are family-owned businesses who have a commitment to an organic lifestyle, which depends on volunteers. So, if you have any inkling of doubts about fulfilling your commitment, then just don’t agree to work; wait until the time is right.

So that’s WWOOFing? Yes, that’s all there is to it. Aside from being incredible easy to get involved with the WWOOF programs around the worldwide, it also a perfect way to extend your budget, especially in more costly areas, while supporting healthier farm environments.

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