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