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Alexandra R / Spoon
Life > Experiences

WWOOF and Farm Life: The Ins and Outs

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Virginia Tech chapter.

Do you want to learn more about organic farming, support local agriculture and travel on a cheap budget? If so, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms may be something worth trying. This organization is a work exchange in which you trade your labor for a place to stay and your meals covered. It is in the U.S. and international, giving you opportunities to travel wherever you want or even volunteer at a local farm. Over winter break, I spent my time on an organic turmeric farm in Florida through WWOOF, where I connected with amazing people, explored several beautiful nature spots that Florida has to offer, and learned what it takes to run a commercial organic farm. In addition, I met travelers from all over the country, Canada and France, many of whom were living in their vehicles. Living on a farm for a month gave me room to think and grow, as I was able to spend much of my time outside rather than in my college apartment. With all of the positive experiences, there were downsides and things to look out for.

With living and food arrangements, it is really important to know what you are getting yourself into before arriving at a farm. All farms vary, and they may be able to accommodate a private room, or you may have to share a room with others. When staying at a farm, you have to remember that it is also someone’s household, so they may only have certain food accommodations. If there are any preferences you have, it’s best to make sure your host can cover them before deciding to travel to their farm.

Not all farms are big enough to host several people. Some farms listed on the WWOOF site are homesteads that only accommodate a person or two. I enjoy going to farms that resemble more of a commune, so I can meet and connect with multiple people. This is a personal requirement of mine that I look for when searching for farms to go to.

In terms of transportation, you should consider how important it is for you to have a car during your stay. Remember that farms are usually secluded, so you may have to rely on the kindness of others to give you a ride to the store or tag along to explore nearby spots on weekends or time off. As a woman traveling alone, having your car with you may make you feel more at ease and safe as you have a means of escape if needed (which you hopefully won’t need but it’s always better to play it safe!).

Hours are something very much worth discussing with the host before going. Luckily, WWOOF has certain guidelines where you should not be working more than about 30 hours a week. Most farm hosts lay out their expectations on their profile so you know what to expect, but you don’t want to show up surprised about how many hours you are expected to put in during the week. Farm volunteers through WWOOF are technically only supposed to be serving as a helping hand, but hosts may often take advantage of the free labor and overwork you. The type of labor you’ll be doing is also important to know. Much of my time was spent clipping roots and trimming imperfections of the turmeric to make them pretty enough for a grocery store, but believe me, it got very grueling towards the last couple weeks of my stay. If you enjoy variety like me, making sure that you’ll have opportunities for different types of farm help during your stay is important to discuss with the host.

With all of these things to look out for, there are also so many positives involved in this type of work exchange. Depending on what you’d like to experience, you have endless possibilities. Maybe you want to learn about organic homesteading, or instead, how a large commercial farm runs. Maybe you are inspired to visit a state you’ve never been to, or you could work at an international farm and learn a new language. It also allows you to support more environmentally friendly farming practices and help local businesses grow. Plus, you may likely get the opportunity to eat the organic produce you helped grow or harvest.

With all things considered, I thoroughly enjoyed my time working at the organic farm, and intend on continuing to find more farms to stay at when I have the time. Some of my favorite memories were late nights by the campfire while sharing stories, eating meals together every day, and feeling like family with the other volunteers after about a week of knowing each other. This was a life-changing experience, and with its ups and downs, I would relive it if I could. Work exchange programs like WWOOF are great for people who like to get out of their comfort zone a little and put themselves out there without exactly knowing how it will turn out. It’s a hit or miss, and farm life isn’t for everyone, but I think it is worth trying especially if you are looking for a cheap getaway from college life.

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