WWOOFing is a win-win opportunity for both volunteers and farmers. You give your time to assist farmers with whatever they need in return for food and accommodation. Before participating:
1) You will have to pay for a one year membership in the specific country you want to WWOOF in.
2) Search for the type of farm that you would like – the online database provides a way to filter your search and also a map so you know where the farm is located. In addition, hosts will provide more information about their farm and what they expect from WWOOFers. You will also notice that not everyone has a farm, there are plenty of families with orchards and also guest houses that practice organic farming/gardening.
3) Once you find an interesting place, go ahead and contact them. Both email and phone numbers are usually provided. NOTE: If you are contacting farmers by email, expect some delay as they probably don’t check their email all the time.
My first experience with WWOOFing was wonderful, despite the fact that it was not on a farm. David and Natacha had a small orchard about 1km away from their house. They were also doing renovations on their eco-friendly house and building their garden. You work out an agreement with your host as to how many hours you will work each day – usually about five hours. I stayed in the attic for the first week, but then decided to camp in the orchard afterwards as you’ll see below.
I arrived during the weekend and was invited to go to a protest against nuclear waste being deposited under farm ground. Despite all the windmills I saw, I was told that nuclear power was their primary source of energy. This is a very real problem for farmers and the small population who live in the area.
The house was equipped with rain barrels and skylight to maximize light coming into the house and of course to minimize the use of electricity.
What did I do?
1) I did plenty of weeding and prepared a new spot for strawberries to grow. Unfortunately, all the cherries in the orchard were eaten by birds, but when I was leaving, I saw ones that would be ready to eat once I left!
2) I helped David with renovations around the house. He was building a new room with a creative ceiling and working on stained glass windows. He actually built all the rooms for the kids and guests upstairs. I helped cut pieces of drywall for the ceiling, painted the top of the garage and broke down a wall to make a new room.
3) I helped prepare food in kitchen. We helped crack walnuts and make “compot” which is like jam, although not as sweet. Natacha made an excellent rhubarb compot from all the rhubarb I collected from her father’s garden.
Overall, it was a wonderful first experience. The family made me feel like I was home. They were open minded and were so patient with my French, which improved thanks to the children books as well as my unofficial translator role for the other WWOOFers. Below, is a small stained glass project I helped David design. It might be hard to make out, but it’s a purple tent sitting on top of a hill with a mountain and sun in the background and water in the foreground.