Contributed by Tessa Peters
There’s something to be said for the view from the 18th floor of a Hilton resort just about anywhere in the world. It’s luxurious, clean and relaxing…and it will cost you a pretty penny.
However, there are those of us who will never feel comfortable dragging our dirty backpacks, mud-caked hiking boots and suntan lines through the gilded lobbies of such places. There are
those for whom even the less-luxurious doesn’t quite fit the ideal.
More and more, there are people who want to travel with the purpose of giving back to the communities through which they travel. There are traditional eco-travel packages, but often they are as isolating from the community as the Hilton. If you’re looking to be thrown into
a community and to give back as much as you gather, one way is to join Willing Workers On Organic Farms, commonly called WWOOF. WWOOF pairs hosts with volunteers in order to
trade labor for room and board.
There are many WWOOF organizations worldwide that publish lists of farms accepting
volunteers. Some are national organizations and others are independent farms in countries
where a national organization does not exist. WWOOF organizations usually charge a small fee
to hosts and volunteers. This fee helps maintain and develop the WWOOF network. A potential
volunteer pays the fee, searches the list and then directly contacts the farms where they would
be interested in working.
My own foray into organic farming started at a farm which accepts volunteers and students in
Rio Muchacho, Ecuador (www.riomuchacho.com) I took a course in organic farming which led
me to return to my home in the United States and find work on another organic farm.
As an organic farmer, I can vouch for the necessity of WWOOFers. Each year, my farm in
Northern Wyoming accepts between 3 and 6 WWOOF volunteers who help us with planting,
weeding, harvesting and composting. They help us feed pigs and brand cows. Once in a while,
of course, we even let them have the day off to go fishing, biking or even watch a movie.
They’ve come from as far as France and Germany and as near as the next town, but they all
gain skills in country living and ecologically sound lifestyles. They are the main labor force for
our Communtiy Supported Agriculture (CSA) project, providing food for 90 families. The CSA
wouldn’t exist without their help.
If you’re looking for a vacation which will save you money, contribute to a community and help
you develop ecologically sound skills, explore WWOOF.
About WWOOF: www.wwoof.org
WWOOF independents: www.wwoof.org/independents.asp
WWOOF national organizations: www.wwoof.org/national.asp
WWOOF in the USA: www.wwoofusa.org
WWOOF Costa Rica*