Jane Kuhn - Nov 20, 2016

A Few Tips for Choosing Your Next WWOOFer

Anna Maria Desipris, who started a WWOOF program at the Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center

What is WWOOF?
With thousands of connections made between small farms and eager visitors in the US and around the world, WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, a networking site), is an incredible resource that should not go untapped. A sliding scale membership fee of $5-50 opens the door to thousands of enthusiastic visitors (WWOOFers) in search of their next farming adventure, ready to exchange a half day's work for room and board.

Finding a WWOOFer
Selecting your next WWOOFer can be a bit overwhelming, and finding the right match is crucial for a successful experience. It's imperative to first establish what scenario is best for your farm. Consider the ideal number of WWOOFers you can host, what an appropriate length of stay might be, and work expectations you have.

With your needs clearly identified, give special attention to how you advertise your farm as a WWOOFing site. Describe in detail what type of work WWOOFers can expect, particularly during different times of year, and provide a sample work schedule to illustrate a typical day or week at the farm. Additionally, a clear description of available accommodations including housing, how meals will operate, and what domestic resources the WWOOFer has access to, can help prevent any undesirable surprises. Make your farm stand out by highlighting what you can offer, such as: specific skills you can teach, techniques one can learn, or opportunities you can facilitate connecting them with your community.

Selecting a WWOOFer
As you receive promising inquires from WWOOFers, discerning who will be an appropriate fit is crucial to a fruitful work-exchange, and communication is key. Respond to requests promptly. It's also not uncommon to both ask for references and provide some of your own. After gathering background information about previous experiences and interests, set up a phone call or Skype chat to obtain a more accurate sense of who you'll be hosting and living with for a period of time.

WWOOFing sites are incredibly diverse in every way. Similarly, WWOOFers come from a wide range of backgrounds, each carrying with them different hopes and presumptions. If accommodations and work expectations are clear from the beginning, the element most often generating dissatisfaction is mentorship- or lack thereof. WWOOF, at its core, is an educational exchange. Learning by doing is central to farm work, as is learning by seeing, following, and discussing. Provide an accurate forecast for how much you'll be around working with your WWOOFers and how much independent work they can expect to do on their own.

A Worthy Pursuit

Sitting down at the dinner table upon the end of a work day among new WWOOFer friends, you'll likely find yourself swapping travel stories, comparing agricultural techniques, or brainstorming for your farm's next big project. A rich opportunity, hosting folks from all over the world through WWOOF can bring not only much needed help to your farm production, but also inspiring conversation and nourishing relationships. Plan ahead, advertise clearly, and communicate thoroughly to attract and select those that will be a great fit, surely enriching your farm.

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Jane works as a Field Production Specialist at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, where her days are filled with tractor work, irrigation coordination, orchard care, and educating apprentices and interns. Her favorite way to end a long day's work in the sun, is running down the hill to Mitchell's Cove and jumping in the Pacific.


Ben Lyons

Nov 28, 2016 at 5:27 PM

i read this one!


Feb 2, 2018 at 3:19 AM

it would be great if you covered the sketch part of farm volunteers like legality and liability. it's illegal and they are a huge insurance risk. call your farm insurance agent and have them tell you about volunteers. then call your state employment department and ask them about volunteers.

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