While travelling overseas, most young people tend to find themselves a bit short of what's unfortunately the most important thing to continue their adventure, finance. One way to replenish their bodies, if not their money-belts, is to find temporary, free, live-in employment.
The World Wide Organisation of Organic Farms (WWOOF) is a voluntary co-ordinating organisation for ecologically-run farms and a few similar eco-friendly environmental projects. At these places travellers can work from 2 - 3 days upwards - depending on your own and the farm-owner's needs.
WWOOF originated in Britain in 1971 and spread quickly, especially to Australia and New Zealand (1974). Nowadays there are national WWOOF organisations in most developed countries. In Australia alone there are more than a 1,000 places to go wwoofing. In New Zealand there are over 500 listed.
To enable people to learn first hand organic growing techniques.
To enable town-dwellers to experience living and working on a farm.
To show alternative ways of life.
To improve communication within the organic movement.
To help develop confidence in becoming self-sufficient.
To meet interesting people and make useful contacts.
- from the WWOOF International website.
Wwoofers - the name given to WWOOF workers - do not receive money as payment. Instead they receive good ol' solid country hospitality and board for free. In contrast to a lot of other voluntary work where you often have to pay huge amounts of money to be able to work at all, wwoofing is relatively cheap. The only thing you will have to pay is a small membership fee to the national organisation of the country you want to work in. In many instances even this can be avoided as long as you have the address of the farm where you want to work and contact them directly. Wwoofing makes your travelling a lot cheaper, so allowing you to enjoy your trip without constant money worries.
Experience Not Essential
Wwoofing is fun. You will not only learn something about organic and self-sustainable farming, you'll definitely meet loads of people, both other travellers working as wwoofers and the local people running the farms. The work varies a lot from place to place, between countries and even between different regions and farms, thus ensuring plenty of variety. Only on rare occasions is previous experience necessary to land a job. A sunny nature is normally the only requirement.
In most countries you will not need any official papers to get this kind of work, since it's voluntary and therefore not regulated. Be discreet though. It is probably best to not tell immigration officials about your plans of wwoofing. They may not believe you are willing to work without being paid in hard cash. The national WWOOF organisations will inform you about local regulations.
Using the Internet is definitely the easiest way to contact WWOOF. WWOOF Australia distributes different lists of farms both in and outside Australia and also has links for other WWOOF organisations arranged by country. WWOOF International also distributes a list or two.
Some farms have their own web-pages offering possibilities to contact them directly thereby negating the need to go through the WWOOF national organisations. When you have the address of a farm you would like to work at, contact them and ask if it's OK for you to come and work at their farm. If they say yes, you only have to arrange a suitable time to arrive and hey presto, you're a wwoofer. It's that easy.