Posted by: A Part of the Solution | July 19, 2010

Our First WWOOFers

My farm has WWOOFers. We have our very first WWOOFers. What on earth are WWOOFers, you may say to yourself. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOFing is the act of volunteering on organic/sustainable farms to help and learn. WWOOFers are the persons engaged in this volunteerism.

WWOOF has branches in 99 countries at present. Many WWOOFers are young people who enjoy unique travel experiences. Since WWOOF hosts provide meals and accommodations for their volunteers, and most farms ask for reasonable time commitments from their WWOOFers, it works out well for both hosts and volunteers. WWOOFers may come to a farm for a weekend, a few weeks, or even years in some cases.

The organization was founded in Britain in 1971. At first, it was only for weekend experiences within the country. But the idea grew, as enthusiasm for all things organic grew. Each member country maintains its own branch of WWOOF; there is no overarching governing body. And yes, some places may try to charge their volunteers for room and board. And yes, some volunteers are slack or rowdy. But overall, this simple system works relatively well and lets thousands of people have firsthand experiences on diverse farms.

Our first WWOOFers are Spring, from the PRC, and Atsushi–from Japan. Spring will start his freshman year at Penn State, with an Agriculture major in August (he’s hot for hot composting). Atsushi plans to WWOOF in New Mexico after he leaves this farm. We collected them from the train station in Altoona on Friday evening. Since WWOOFer housing in our outbuilding isn’t ready yet, we’ve put them in one of the B&B rooms.

Clearing, cleaning and arranging volunteer housing for WWOOFers is near the top of the WWOOFing task list, as I’ve posted it in the WWOOF USA host farm directory. We also want to use WWOOF labor to create nesting boxes for the chickens, build a second coop, fence an area of the most heavily timbered-out woods for a piggery, build a shed for the piggery, and a den for the pigs as well. All of the special projects are in addition to weeding, mulching, pruning, tieing up, seeding, watering and otherwise keeping the vegetable garden going.

The farm asks WWOOFers for five days a week, seven to eight hours a day. In return, they have the run of the farm, use of the WiFi, privileges in the media room and with the land-line telephone, access to the laundry facilities, modern plumbing in the bathroom and the really good food I cook. Soon, WWOOFers will have enhanced privacy in the form of space in the outbuildings for their rooms. We split the labor, during the hot months of the year, into an early shift, and a mid-afternoon shift. Nobody should have to risk heat-stroke on our behalf.

Spring and Atsushi are responsible, bright and hardworking. They have described us to the hosts at the farm they left in Lancaster as “kind people”. I know my farm is lucky to have such a great first experience of WWOOF. I’ll be doing everything in my power to keep the streak running.


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