If you’re interested in an alternative to a standard vacation, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) affords a unique proposition–pitch in a few hours of daily work on an organic farm in exchange for free lodging and meals, all while learning the ins and outs of growing organic food.
So how does it work? Regional WWOOF organizations publish lists of organic farms that welcome volunteer help at certain times. Given the multitude of hosts around the world, you have a wide variety of locales, tasks and experiences to choose from! Once you’ve identified the farm that most interests you, you’ll make direct contact to arrange a stay. Volunteers usually live as part of the host family (with lodging and meals included), and the only costs you’d need to cover are travel expenses to get to the farm and a nominal fee to help maintain and develop the WWOOF network.
I’m really interested in the processes and best practices of organic farming, and as an urban apartment-dweller I don’t get much exposure to this craft, so the WWOOF’s program definitely appeals to me. I could see myself trying a volunteer stint at a California farm within driving distance, or perhaps even pitching in a few days as part of a longer trip to Hawaii, Asia or Europe.
Keep in mind: You’ll be living on a farm, so accommodations will most likely be rustic and basic. You should also be physically prepared to engage in potentially rigorous labor. Finally, note that many of the WWOOF’s regional organizations charge a fee for access to their farm listings (e.g. WWOOF-USA charges $30/year for access to its online farm directory).
Bonus tip(s): If you’d like to try the produce from a local, organic farm, look into whether there’s a CSA (community supported agriculture) program in your area. I “subscribe” to bi-weekly produce boxes from the South Central CSA, and it’s been fun (and economical) trying out new recipes featuring the unique seasonal veggies that I receive. Check Local Harvest to see if there’s a CSA near you.