If you, like I, head straight for Urban Dictionary when confronted with an unknown term, you will find the definition of WWOOFing to be as follows:
When a young person throws caution to the wind, rejects their material possessions and travels the world working on organic farms for the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms organization. They pay for the plane ticket, but then have free room and board in exchange for back breaking labour on an organic farm.
“Have you heard from Elisha lately?”
“No, I heard she was WWOOFing on a Costa Rican Pineapple plantation.”
Elisha’s got the right idea if you ask me.
For those who are familiar with the term, it’s quite likely that the first thing that springs to mind is FREE HOLIDAY(!!!) Whilst in some respects, WWOOFing does allow you to live in a different country for a period of time whilst being provided with free food and accommodation, the real meaning of the name (or at least one of the meanings) implies the reality of the scheme; ‘Willing Workers on Organic Farms’.
Essentially, WWOOFing involves working for 1 week, 2 weeks or even up to a few years on an organic farm. There are currently hosts in around 99 countries around the world, ranging from honey harvesting for Island Beehive on Kangaroo Island, coffee farms in Northern Thailand, and making cheese in the Alps. The opportunities are almost infinite, and the choice of countries and activities are equally diverse.
WWOOF aims to provide willing volunteers with first-hand experience within an organic environment, in order to allow volunteers to experience life in either a rural setting or a new country. Whilst many people try WWOOFing in order to experience a new country and its culture, it can also be an invaluable opportunity for those wanting to improve a language, or even to begin the process of learning a new language completely. After all, immersion is crucial for efficient language learning (take it from someone who has learnt the hard way…)
The host will often offer language assistance, or even free lessons, of course in return for assistance on their farm, or sometimes even around the house and with their children. The duration of the visit is negotiable, and whilst some people opt to stay for a few days or weeks, some chose to stay for anything up to a number of years. Work days average five or six hours, and the WWOOFERS tend to mix with people from a range of different countries. Whilst there is a range of different schemes available for anyone wanting to travel inexpensively, such as Au Pairing, WWOOFing seems to be becoming more and more popular due to its complete flexibility with regards to the period of time you are expected to stay, and the wealth of opportunity available when deciding where to go and what to do.
For those interested in working in France, head over to the French site. Weather permitting, the south of France is breathtakingly beautiful during the summer months (think mountains, wine, warm until November… you’ve got the idea) Equally charming is the Bordeaux region, particularly Aquitaine, for its beautiful Vineyards. The best time for grape-picking is, however, around May/June time.
Germany is also a great choice for WWOOFing, alongside an abundance of other countries such as Greece. For those feeling a little more adventurous, the opportunities available in Australia are, quite literally, endless. Producing Olive Leaf tea in Queensland, working at a Butterfly Retreat in the Northern Territory or working with Alpacas in New South Wales.
If you’re feeling a little apprehensive about the idea of up-rooting and moving to a new country, why not try out the scheme in England first?
I can promise that you’ll have one hell of an adventure, however I can’t promise that your friends won’t think that you’re BARKING mad… (geddit?!)