December 2015
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Decisions, Decisions. A Semi-Experienced WWOOFer’s Perspective

WWOOFing changed my life. There’s no doubt about it. I can safely say that no other decision has made such a positive impact on my life. It gave me the opportunity to explore a new world, in more ways than one. On one hand, it led to the change in scenery I needed to inspire my own personal growth. For someone interested in any of the many facets of permaculture with a passion for travel, I would recommend WWOOF. At the very least, taking the time to find out more and give it some thought wouldn’t hurt. That being said, WWOOFing isn’t for everyone. This isn’t meant to be taken as discouragement. My intention is to be honest with full disclosure in telling you that WWOOFing IS NOT A VACATION. Many WWOOFers fall victim to unrealistic expectations of what the experience will be. Every farm is unique, offering a wide range of skills to learn and routes to take in the world of farming and permaculture. Of the thousands of farms in the U.S., one will not find any two that won’t have significant differences in at least one major area: climate, people, animals, plants, and methodology.

Choosing the right farm is a task all in itself. The process can be made more efficient with a few simple tips. These suggestions are based mainly off of personal experiences and interactions with other WWOOFers along the way. This is only meant to act as a guide for anyone looking to take the first step towards being a committed WWOOFer. And, as always, remember to go with what feels right after doing your own research.

My first suggestion doesn’t necessarily have to come first but it will help tremendously down the road if it’s taken into account early on in the process. Be honest with your wants and needs. Do you enjoy gardening? Do you have a passion for animals? Are you looking to make a difference? The questions are endless, as are the answers. There is no one right answer. If you stay true to you, I have no doubt you will end up where you need to be. Once you have narrowed down your own preferences you’re ready for the next step…checking out the many farms!

In order to view the farms you have to be a member of the WWOOF organization. Becoming a member gives you access to the thousands of farms you will have to choose from for an entire year from the date of purchase. Signing up to be a member of the WWOOF organization takes a few minutes and about $40 depending on if you’d like a paper copy of the farm list in addition to the online access. Receiving the paper copy isn’t crucial if your access to internet is adequate. Farms are being added to the list of hosts on a weekly basis and it’s much easier to stay updated on those changes through the website anyway.

Take some time to look at what the different farms have to offer. Everyone will have a varying set of interests. Most hosts provide a brief description of daily tasks, long-term projects, housing options, and much more. General categories for common questions are available through narrowed search options. Some of these include WWOOFer space, farm type, lodging options, preferred stay length, and diet restrictions. Each farm falls under one of three availabilities: Open Now, Needs Help Urgently, and Available Next Season.

My advice is that you look at a few host farms every few days. Consistency is key in seeing as many of your options as possible. Start simple. What region of the country would you like to explore? What climate would you like to experience? Check often and save farms you find interesting to Favorites. This can be found at the bottom of your home page. After you’ve compiled a satisfying number of favorites, start contacting! And don’t wait until a week before to do so. Send emails and make calls at least a month in advance, if not more. My preference was to send personalized emails to a handful of my top favorites before going any further. That doesn’t mean stop looking either. There is no limit to the number of farms you can visit! But again, start simple.

Some hosts will reply immediately and some won’t ever respond at all. This is to be expected. Of the two dozen I attempted to contact initially only half sent messages back. Of those, about half said they were unavailable. Be reasonable and flexible with hosts as they are encouraged to do the same with you. Remember, every host is different! From here your choices become all your own. Feel out hosts and what they have to offer you as well as what you have to offer them. Stay positive, show enthusiasm, and be honest with all parties involved. If you can do this, you’ll be that much closer to setting foot out the door on a journey of a lifetime.

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1 comment to Decisions, Decisions. A Semi-Experienced WWOOFer’s Perspective

  • Ken

    I wish I’d had an opportunity like this when I was younger and had less responsibilities. Thanks for sharing. I’m sure there are many young adults emerging from the doors of the school system that dont want to take on debt for a degree and rather learn a little about American life. This information may help them be able to choose alternatives.

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