Skip Navigation

WWOOF-ing

Community Highlights Volunteering WWOOF-ing

WWOOF= Willing Workers On Organic Farms

It is a program in which you do 4-6 hrs/ day or up to 42 hrs/ week of work in exchange for room and board. You will also, unofficially, play the role of ambassador for your country… so don’t be a pain in the ass, always clean up after yourself, and go easy on the TP. Work isn’t limited to farming, but can include cooking, child minding, animal care, crafting art work, dyeing, helping at farmers markets, cleaning, gardening, etc etc. (so far, I have: cooked, cleaned, minded kids, picked worms out of a worm farm, weeded, planted, minded cats, dug up flower beds, baked, sorted timber, cleaned up old bikes... etc) What you end up doing depends on the host, their needs, your interests, and your skills. Your accommodation can vary from a room to yourself in the family home to a BYO (Bring Your Own) shelter.

You won’t necessarily be on a farm either. There are many urban and suburban hosts that just have large gardens. But what you will find (or should find) in all of your hosts is a commitment (to varying degrees of course) to sustainable living practices, and many of the hosts are into permaculture and/ or biodynamic growing as well.

Sustainable Living= "a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the Earth's natural resources and his/her own resources.[1] Practitioners of sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption and diet.[2] Proponents of sustainable living aim to conduct their lives in ways that are consistent with sustainability, in natural balance and respectful of humanity's symbiotic relationship with the Earth's natural ecology and cycles." *

Permacultre= "Permaculture (the word, coined by Bill Mollison, is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way." *

Biodynamic Growing= "Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition." *

The WWOOF program is not limited to Australia, but is active in several other countries including: New Zealand, USA, and France to name a few. To participate in the WWOOF program as a worker, you have to buy a WWOOF membership, which, in Australia, currently costs about 65 dollars. This will only get you access to the Australian WWOOF program though. If you were to go to New Zealand, you’d have to buy the New Zealand WWOOF membership.

Your membership includes access to the WWOOF forum and the official WWOOF book, which contains information about all of the current registered hosts in that country. The program puts an emphasis on not sharing your book with people not in the WWOOF program as it contains personal information (like where they live and their phone number) of the WWOOF hosts. In fact, when you get to your WWOOF destination, you have to show your book and passport to your host. They then record your member number and nationality in their guestbook. In Australia, the information in the book and on the forum is protected under some sort of privacy law so sharing the information is actually, technically, illegal and punishable by law. I am a bit fuzzy on the details of the law and how severe the repercussions would be though.

WWOOF book cover

WWOOF book cover

Membership also includes a small insurance policy (up to 10,000 dollars) that covers injuries that occur on the way to, during, and while leaving your WWOOF host. Well, at least it does in Australia… I have never WWOOFed anywhere else, but I would imagine there is something similar everywhere.

Lastly, if you are considering WWOOFing, remember that you spend a lot of time outdoors digging in the dirt… you will cross paths with lots and lots of bugs, spiders, lizards, snakes, etc. Many of these can bite, and some are poisonous, particularly in Australia (so far I have seen a few red back and white tail spiders, which are sort of similar to black widows and brown recluses).
For more information about WWOOF check out: http://wwoof.org/

Ok, lesson over. Now, there will be a test over all of this next week so I hope you took notes.

Currently, I am in a tiny town about a 3 hour train ride outside of Melbourne called Stratford, which is located on the Avon River and has a large Shakespeare festival each year (I think in the fall?). I am beginning to notice that the early white Australians really liked to name things after the things in England. Seriously, I think every city I have been to or seen a map of has at least one Goulburn Street, Elizabeth Street, and Victoria Street.

Actually, according to our host, Stratford was founded by Scottish settlers out of NSW that left their farms for better land during a bad 3 year drought in the early-mid 1800’s… even by American standards, nothing is very old here. That is, of course, referring only to the Anglos who settled (or invaded… depending on who you talk to) and not to the native Aborigines who have lived in Australia for well over 40,000 years.

I am living in a (mostly) converted shed with a bunk bed, though I really don’t think 2 people could fit…. But that will be put to the test tonight when the new WWOOF-er gets here. The room in the house is being used by an Israeli couple who are also WWOOFing.

IMG_2417.jpg
My room is on the right and the toilet is on the left.

I spent a lovely Christmas here, and will be here for the New Year. I arrived here by the train on Christmas Eve actually… an hour late. On Christmas morning, my host, her granddaughter, the Israeli couple, and I gathered round the table, opened presents (our host got each of us a little something), played old maid, and had tea.

IMG_2412.jpg
Merry Christmas!

So far, we have been helping our host with her garden, cooking, and I have cycled over to her friend’s house to feed the cat a couple of times (her friend is out of the country for 6 weeks).

IMG_2448.jpg
Cardigan has the best meow... it sounds a lot like he ro (hello)

Funny story: the first day I rode over to feed Cardigan, I went out back, which has a great view of cow pastures and bushes, and decided it was a great opportunity to get some sun on my very pale legs (we wore wetsuits at surf camp). The house is on several acres of land so the nearest neighbor is a ways away. So I threw off my pants and did some tanning. It was sunny with a nice breeze, and the mooing of the cows could be heard gently in the distance. About 10 minutes in I got bored and thought to myself, “what a great time to do some squats and lunges.” So I did. About mid squat I realized there was a road between the bushes and the cow pasture. They honked.

IMG_2450.jpg
Yeah, you can't see it either

My previous host lived in a suburb of Melbourne, and had 2 very spirited boys aged 3 and 5. I stayed in the spare bedroom in the house, and did a lot of dishes, child minding, and some gardening. On the second day I was there, I transplanted some corn and beans, and by the time I left the plants had doubled in size… it was really a cool feeling to see my corn had grown (I was afraid I was gonna kill it.. I think I kinda killed the beans though).

Their house was on a street that dead-ended to a nature reserve, and at dusk all the kangaroos came out to feed. Finally, I got to see some kangaroos, and in the most inaccurate stereotypical way possible. Awesome.

IMG_2406.jpg
Kanga!

As it stands now, I will be here until the 2nd and will get a lift from my host back to Melbourne since she has business there and was going anyway. After that, I reckon it is off to Tasie.

UPDATE: I had my computer looked at, but the part I need is not to be found on the Australian continent (though there are several in The States), and since it is the Christmas/ Boxing Day/ New Year time of year, it would take several weeks to get one in. As such I will see about getting it fixed in Melbourne or Tasmania. The part costs about 10 dollars, and the labor charge will vary based on where I go ( I was quoted here in Stratford at 20 dollars… damn). My host was awesome enough to borrow a monitor from her brother and let me use her internet a bit (library is closed until after New Year’s).

I realized I had not mentioned this before, but all dollar amounts are in AUD, not USD unless otherwise specified.

  • In order, here are the sites I got my definitions from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_living
http://www.permaculturenews.org/about-permaculture-and-the-pri/#permaculture
https://www.biodynamics.com/biodynamics.html

"I've Got A Feeling" The Beatles

This featured blog entry was written by Nama from the blog Don't Panic.
Read comments or Subscribe

By Nama

Posted Sat, Dec 29, 2012 | Australia | Comments