What in the world is a WWOOF? Let me share a few real-life conversations that have happened recently:
Fellow Traveller: What are you doing in Italy?
me: well, I’ve been WWOOFing in Tuscany.
FT: Wait… What?
me: You know.. WWOOF, Willing Workers on Organic Farms? I’ve been volunteering with a grape harvest and learning to make wine.
FT: Oh… you should explain that, because where I’m from, I’m pretty sure that’s an app for gay dating.
But then I didn’t learn my lesson… because this conversation happened:
Friend: Where are you these days?
me: I’m in Tuscany helping with an olive harvest!
F: What a great experience to have! How’d you manage to swing that?!
me: WWOOF!! It’s great! We work 4-5 hours and receive 3 meals and a place to stay!
F: Sounds like a great place to live too! Lol. Did you find this opportunity online?
me: Yeah! WWOOF is a website that connects volunteers with hosts in every country
F: Oh! Hahaha. I thought “WWOOF” was just your way of saying you’re excited about something!
WWOOF is neither an app for dating nor an expression of excitement. But it does provide plenty of cause for excitement. WWOOF is a work exchange experience that provides opportunities to work on organic farms for about 5-6 hours each day in exchange for a place to stay, three meals a day, and an opportunity to experience a new culture in a family setting. It is a country-by-country program, meaning that if you want to volunteer in multiple countries, you need multiple memberships. Depending on where you are, WWOOF stands for either Willing Workers on Organic Farms or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. With a year-long membership being less than the cost of a hotel, though, it pays for itself if you get one placement in each country where you purchase a membership.
I’ve only experienced WWOOFing in Italy, so I can’t comment on other countries, but WWOOF Italia sends out a regular email with last minute placements and has a comprehensive website where you can search farms based on location and type of work you’re interested in with contact information for hosts.
A few tips for your first WWOOF experience
- When emailing a host, make it personal! No one likes a form letter, so let the host know why you’re applying to their farm specifically. Unlike HelpX and Workaway, WWOOF (Italy at least!) doesn’t allow WWOOFers to create a profile, so tell your host about you. Include things you like to do and past experiences that makes you a good fit for this volunteer position.
- Ask your host about a typical day of volunteering and be realistic about the kind of work you’re able to do. Make sure to ask where you’ll be staying, working hours and what kind of work you’ll be doing. Be flexible, of course, but this at least gives you an idea of what to expect.
- Include a PDF of your WWOOF membership.
- If you get turned down, don’t get discouraged! One of my hosts said that he gets at least 1,500 requests to WWOOF per year and only takes 12-15. So keep smiling and apply to a new farm!
- Once you’re accepted, stay in touch with your host as the date gets close to confirm. Dates can change drastically based on whether crops are early or late. Staying in touch means no surprises for you at the last minute.
- Most importantly, be friendly, respectful, and willing to learn as much as possible from your hosts! It takes a special kind of person to let strangers into their home…. chances are good that your hosts are some pretty incredible people with great stories!
My experiences in Tuscany harvesting grapes and learning to make wine and harvesting olives have been some of the greatest weeks of my life, and I can’t recommend the program highly enough. I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did!Have you WWOOFed before? If so, where were you and what did you do? If not, what would be the ultimate WWOOF experience for you?
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