Sunday, November 1, 2009

WWOOF! World Wide Opportunitites on Organic Farms

It's been awhile, but I wanted to say a few good words about WWOOF. WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a world wide network linking individuals interested in volunteering on organic farms with farmers looking for volunteer help. In exchange for volunteering on a farm, room and board are provided for free! It's a wonderful and cheap way to travel, and there are WWOOF organizations all over the globe!

Last summer, I had such an amazing experience WWOOFing in Canada at the farm Artisans de la Terre. Located in Ste.-Marcelline, we were about 15 minutes away from the town Joliette, and about an hour away from Montréal.

What were my days like?
I was only required to work 5-6 hours a day, 6 days a week- although I often worked more than that because I wanted to. Growing a diverse range of vegetables (and a few fruits) was the focus of this farm at the time, although they are still expanding. The farm also had chickens and a few animals, and they distributed CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) baskets twice a week. Although every day was different, some of my daily activities included feeding the chickens, watering the plants in the greenhouse, weeding, harvesting, helping to prepare the CSA baskets, helping to prepare meals in the kitchen, and more.

The house, the kiosque (farm stand), and the greenhouse

The barn and the greenhouse

Time to weed!

Bringing the chickens water

Preparing the CSA baskets

Besides getting to work outside and being able to work with some fabulous people (including some fellow WWOOFers), one of my favorite things at the farm were the communal meals. At lunch, they were an absolute must. After working for the majority of the day, it was wonderful to enjoy everyone's company for a group meal of delicious and farm-fresh food.

Making chapati

And because we were in the Québec region, I was able to practice my French skills and learn various farming terms and expressions en français! In addition, I learned how to cook with all the new vegetables I was being introduced to. (I now love kohlrabi, my second favorite vegetable after carrots!)

WWOOFing is a great way to learn about farming, sustainability practices, and where your food comes from, and it's a great way to travel and to improve your language skills as well!

Interested in WWOOFing?
Every country runs its WWOOF network just slightly differently, so look them up at WWOOF.org. There is usually a small fee to get the detailed listing with the addresses and contact information of the farms, but once you receive the booklet/online access for the detailed listing, you're all set to go! From there, the only fees you should need to pay for is transportation to and from your farm.

My insights as a WWOOFer:
  • It's usually recommended to stay at a farm for at least two weeks to get accustomed to it.
  • Most WWOOFers only stay at one particular farm for a few weeks. (Farm-hopping is common). If you're interested in staying for longer, it's sometimes recommended to see how the first two weeks go first, before making that extra commitment. But communicate with your farmer - it will all depend on the situation! I ended up staying at my farm for 6 weeks.
  • Farmers may be difficult to get a hold of. Don't give up, and be persistent! And don't always rely on e-mail, you may want to give the farmer a call (or 10 ;) ).
  • Communicate with your farmer ahead of time to make sure that you're on the same page, and so that you know each other's goals and expectations.
  • People's WWOOFing experiences vary, so you may also want to try searching online to see if the farm you're interested in has any past WWOOFing reviews.
WWOOFing again is definitely in my future! Please consider doing it, and ask me about it if you have any questions!

1 comment:

photodelicious said...

that's awesome that you did this! i've read about wwoof! opportunities in italy...i think that would be lovely.