11 Things to Know Before You WWOOF

After volunteering for five days on an Argentine chacra (small farm) — complete with ultra fresh meals and a bit of farming work in a picture perfect setting — I’ve learned a good bit about WWOOF and WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). In retrospect, there are a few things I wish I would have known before going. Overall, the number one thing to ask yourself before you choose a volunteer program is “why do I want to do this?” Your answer, be it “I spent all my money and need to live for free until my plane ticket home” or “I want to know how to garden” or “I want a different experience,” should help you figure out what type of farm you want and how long you want to stay. If you’re considering volunteering on a farm, read this first.

11 Things to Know Before You WWOOF

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1. It’s Not All Farm Work

While we spent most of our time weeding the garden, preparing meals, and cleaning up, there was more to do at our farm than just garden and clean. Several people taught English lessons and the week after we left volunteers started making herbal remedies and building adobe bricks.

2. Volunteering on a Farm Doesn’t Always Mean Free Rent

A lot of people assume that if you volunteer on a farm you will get room and board. This isn’t always the case. Because we only stayed five days and worked 4 hour days, we contributed for meals and our room. Another couple on the farm was staying for several weeks, but didn’t want to work 8 hour days so they paid for food. Farming isn’t always lucrative, so even if you work for months with long hours you may still be asked to pay. In Argentina this could be $2-$10/day if you work full time; we paid about $20/day for room and board.

3. You Don’t Have to Work Long Hours

Because some farms don’t need all the volunteers they have at one time, or if you are paying for part of your stay, you don’t necessarily have to work long 8+ hour farming days. If you want to spend part of your time on the farm relaxing or hiking around the area, look for a WWOOF experience that will allow you to pay a bit. And as Kimberly mentioned in her post, at our chacra everyone got weekends off.

4. You Can Stay for Weeks or Months

Because of timing with the rest of our trip in Argentina, we were only able to stay 5 days. I wish we could have stayed longer. Some people on our farm had been there a month and had no plans to leave anytime soon.

5. The Longer You Stay the More You’ll See

It may seem obvious that if you stay for a longer period of time you will get to see how the farm changes throughout the seasons. For some reason I thought this would only happen if you stayed months, but people who had been on our farm only a week were excited to see how much the basil grew. And even in our time there the newborn kittens opened their eyes.

WWOOF

6. The Accommodations Vary

We stayed in a private room on the farm, while others slept in tents. Another WWOOF from a nearby chacra told us his farm didn’t have electricity.

7. Fresh Food is Incredible

Kimberly and I participate in CSA farm shares and shop at farmers markets, and when I was little I managed to grow a few ears of corn and a couple of potatoes one summer. But there’s something different when you’re helping grow the food you eat. It tastes so much better.

8. The Area Around the Farm Matters

We were lucky to be within hiking distance of a national park, lake, and waterfall. The nearest town was also within walking distance and there was a larger town (El Bolson) reachable via bus, taxi, or hitchhiking. If you’re thinking about WWOOF, I would definitely recommend considering what else is in the area.

9. The People (and Animals) Made Our Experience

If we had just been on a farm by ourselves, the experience would have been completely different. Getting to know the other volunteers and the family who owned the farm made our time so much better. If you’re thinking about WWOOF find out who else might be there. Also, our farm had three adorable (but slightly mischievous) dogs, two cats (and three newborn kittens), and three horses. It was so much fun to see these animals interact with each other and with us.

bobthedog.jpg

10. We Spoke in English

Because they other volunteers were from English speaking countries the farm owner spoke English, we spent the majority of our time communicating in English.

11. Start with the WWOOF Website

I visited the Argentina WWOOF site when considering volunteer and farming options, but I wasn’t sure how helpful it would be and I didn’t want to pay the membership fee to find out. Instead I spent hours reading blogs and Googling “volunteer Argentina”. That’s how I eventually came across Chacra Millalen. Turns out, everyone else we volunteered with had found the chacra through the WWOOF site. I would have saved a lot of time had I used the WWOOF site in the first place.

Want to learn more about WWOOFing?

Check out these books: The Practical Guide to WWOOFingVolunteer Vacations, and Work Your Way Around the World: The Globetrotter’s Bible.

Comments

  1. By Ian on

    I spent around a month WOOFing in New Zealand, and I’d recommend it to anyone as one of the best ways to really get to know a country. As well as traditional farms, I also worked in an orchard and on an organic vineyard.

    • By al on

      Never been to NZ can you suggest any places I should try?
      Thanks, enjoyed your comments.

  2. By on

    Awesome! I’m glad I ran across your site. My girlfriend and I have been considering WWOOF’ing in Argentina for a few weeks this coming December, but we were a little unsure as to how reliable and reputable WWOOF is. Reading your site has cleared up a lot of our questions about the organization and the experience as a whole.

  3. By Deise on

    Quero ir para o Sul da Argentina com o trabalho voluntario,sou tecnica em meio ambiente no Brasil, todavia nao tenho muito dinheiro para tambem pagar a cotização do wwoof, como faço para saber contatos de xhacras que recebem voluntarios?
    Gracias!

  4. By Sahara on

    Thats great. I cannot wait to do it.
    2 QUESTIONS PLEASE:
    1. Can you apply for a number of farms in one country?
    2. Is it possible to learn say French if you do it in France?

  5. By on

    @ Deise – My Portuguese isn’t great, but it sounds like you’re looking for a WWOOF experience that doesn’t cost much. Volunteers at Chacra Millalen, where we volunteered, didn’t have to pay anything if they stayed and worked on the farm a certain amount of time. The best thing to do is contact individual farms and ask if that’s possible. Buena suerte!

    @ Sahara – I believe you can apply for a number of farms, but I’m not sure how it works in France specifically. I’m sure you can learn/practice French if you stay on a farm where most people speak French. Tell the farm owner that’s what you’re looking for.

  6. By Kat on

    To Sahara: In September I returned from four months of wwoofing in France and returned to the States equipped with a surprisingly decent grasp on the French language. Although I am far from fluent, I can comprehend a lot of spoken French and am able to express myself in French, albeit simply. What I discovered is that you must be willing to practice and perhaps embarrass yourself (speaking wise) to learn and grow but I highly encourage it!

  7. By Annie on

    When you go through the WWOOF website you have the option to contact official WWOOF farms do not charge for food and board, but there is also the option to view independent farms, and those are the ones that might charge.

    I would recommend visiting a few farms during your stay if you have a desire to get to know the country and culture within it. It also give you a chance to meet more people, and have different types of experiences. I contacted several different farms and am so glad I got a chance to really get the full experience! (besides, some farms may not be as they seemed initially and if you are having a hard time, or really feel like its not right for you, many hosts are understanding and won’t mind you leaving prematurely)

    overall, AMAZING ADVENTURE!!

  8. By on

    Hi there!

    Thanks for your awesome tips, very useful! you might not have the answers to our question but we are stumped. A couple of days ago we payed the wwoof website our membership fee of $38 to a Pi-Chen Chiu Huang! and they have not yet sent us the list… we’ve sent them numerous emails! Did you hear of anything like this on your travels?
    thanks again

    Sophie and Dean

  9. By on

    @ Sophie and Dean- I have not heard anything like your predicament. Did you pay the regular site or a specific country site? My guess is that they don’t send you a list rather they give you access via a user name and password to a list stored online. You could try contacting the main WWOOF organization instead of the region/country specific one you contacted.

  10. By Chris on

    Sophie and Dean – Did you guys every get your list of hosts? I just submitted my payment as well and received the same message that my fee was sent to Pi-Chen Chiu Huang, so I did a quick search and stubmled upon your post.

  11. By Trish on

    Great tips! Can’t wait to start wwoofing in Argentina!

    *I also sent a payment to “Pi-Chen Chiu Huang” a couple of days ago but got the list after two days I made the payment. Good luck!

  12. By Linda on

    WWOOF USA
    To continue with “Things to Know Before You WOOF”:
    I am writing this entry strictly in order to caution other female WOOFers contemplating this farm (named below).

    I recently had a very expensive bad experience due to the paranoia of the female partner of the couple I woofed at.

    Before I came, we had been communicating via email for 2 months. She wanted me to come and work with her animals for several months– of this we were clear. So I flew in and had mailed boxes with my veterinary books, equipment and clothes for winter and spring.

    The woman was clearly off (she revealed she was bi-polar and un-medicated), and apparently felt her status with her male partner threatened by my presence (despite my being an openly gay woman). As soon as I arrived she was giving me a really hard time. She sent me away after a week, complaining that I didn’t tell her my age among other chicanery. I learned through her partner and several of her acquaintances that this had happened several times before to other female woofers! This experience cost me over US$350.

    I am not sure how to avoid similar experiences, except by reading blogs with reviews of specific WWOOF farms. WWOOF unfortunately does not offer a blog reviewing their represented farms.
    The farm that I referred to is called Potluck Farm. The woman is contemplating changing the name to Granny’s Farm. The address is 31 Hurt Road, Raymond WA.

    Sorry about this cautionary entry. I have experienced wonderful farms out there!

  13. By on

    @ Sadie – I’m not 100% positive – but if by “work” you’re just talking about wwoofing – I don’t think you need a visa. I think you need a visa if you will be earning money. But checking out the EU rules and regulations to be certain. But I’ve never heard of anyone needing a visa to WWOOF before.

  14. By Michelle on

    @ Kat – I’m planning on wwoofing in France for a number of months like you did, but possibly for longer. I am wondering how to handle the visa process. Did you get a tourist visa? Can you stay past the expiration date of the visa or is that risky?

    I’m also going in hopes of learning French. Your experience is encouraging!

  15. By Kim on

    @Michelle & Kat

    I’m trying to plan a wwoofing trip in France for the summer as well. I wondered if either of you had paid to join the WWOOF France site and if you found it easy to navigate/worth the money. I looked at the list of farms they provided and wondered if the real listings are more comprehensive.

    Thanks,
    Kim
    splatkat @ gmail [dot] com

  16. By makeez on

    I just signed up for wwoof in both Italy and France. I’m kind of scared, as I’ve never traveled alone to remote parts of a country by myself. I wish I was going with one of you girls. Safety in numbers. lol

    I read that someone had been “creeped” out by their host, BUT in general enjoyed the overall experience of WWOOFing. I’m still hung up on the word…”creeped” out?! What had to have happened for them to write that. I think my mind is trying to scare me at this point.

    I just wish there was a site that told you of good farms to work on and which ones to strictly avoid! That would relieve some of the stress, I think.

  17. By on

    Hi Folks – re the visa questions, generally it is better to get a tourist visa and not even mention that you are there to volunteer on farms. I have heard of people having trouble getting into the US as they said that they were going to volunteer and other countries may be like that too. Best thing is to say that you are a tourist travelling and staying with friends (once you have spent time on WWOOF farms, the hosts will be your friends! We host WWOOFers at our farm and stay in touch with many of them and often get ex-WWOOFers stopping by to visit if they are back in this area.)

  18. By Jessica on

    Hi all!
    Considering applying to some farms in Italy and wondering about timing and acceptance.
    How many farms should I apply to at one time? How far in advance? Your experiences and feedback would be appreciated :) Thanks!

  19. By on

    Thank you so much! Great tips!!

    Do you know any sites where we can find farms without being members? From your post it seems to me that you found yours bypassing the Wwoof site. If it’s not too much I don’t mind paying the fee…it’s not obvious on the website.

    I am looking at Morocco and Turkey…any tips on those locations?

  20. By Lori Halverson-Wente on

    I am wondering if you can work on an Argentine Organic Farm in July – our US summer vs their winter? We are looking for a farm to work at this July

  21. By Joe on

    I am just learning about wwoofing through a friend who lives in sheffield England, and from all the posts Ive read here it seems pretty clear that this is an enjoyable and fufilling experience if you educate yourself on what your looking for ahead of time. Any tips for a first timer to save on time? Looking to leave in a month or two. Thnx.

  22. By Rebecca on

    For those looking for WWOOF-type exchanges, a great alternative website is http://www.helpx.net. It mostly has farm exchanges for room and board, but also has some other types of exchanges (hostels, house work, child care).

    What’s particularly good about it, for those looking to travel, is that you only need to get one membership to the entire helpx website, which gives you access to ALL the countries on it. With WWOOF, in contrast, you have to buy a different membership to each country. It’s also cheaper (30$, I think), and lasts for 3 years.

    It also has reviews for different farms given by people who have worked there, which is helpful for those worried about traveling alone and the potential of living with unpleasant or creepy hosts. You also get to make a profile for yourself about your interests and skills, so your hosts can learn more about you!

    I’ve WWOOFed at 10+ farms over the past few years, as a solo female, and I’ve had amazing experiences. I just found out about helpx.net and really like it so far. It has a much more user-friendly layout, I find. I will be using it to travel this summer.

    Happy travels, and happy farming!

  23. By macarena on

    Hi Elizabeth! sorry to hear that you had to pay , that’s nor normal and is not part of wwoffing. None of you should work 8 or + hours, should be 5 or 6. It’s a shame that in South america are not respecting the wwoffing purposes and core lines (I’m from South America too, and I can tell you that could happen with some people who just see everything as a bussiness). Besides, $20 at day is much more that you they spend in your food and acommodation. Such a shame. Please whoever is reading this and is looking for a nice wwooffing experience, don’t pay or work that much. Is totally unfair.

    • By Christopher on

      I want to second what Macarena says. It is absurd for people to feel that they have to “contribute” (i.e., pay money) because they “only” work four hours a day or because they “only” stay five days. Paying in order to work somewhere sounds grotesque to me, as does the idea that the wwoofer, in exchange only for room and board, should work eight-hour days. I personally feel that even the “six hours a day, six days a week” prevalent on a lot of Italian farms is too much. That’s 36 hours a week, nearly full-time work. Most people who work full time want to get a bit more for their labour than food and a roof over their heads.

      Wwoof is, however, a wonderful way of seeing the world, learning a language, experiencing farming, and meeting people, as well as eating, often, very well. But I do not want Wwoofers to be taken advantage of and attitudes towards work and money such as those in this post are highly dangerous in that regard.

  24. By Kelsey on

    I am looking for a good wwoof farm reviews site (particularly for Argentina) an everything I have found online didn’t turn out to be too helpful, only found a review of one farm. Any advice?

    • By on

      When we WWOOFed in Argentina, we found out the names of a few farms by googling WWOOFing in Argentina. Some blog posts came up and we then googled those farms’ names and found out more information about them. Eventually we picked a farm, found their website, and contacted them. It’s not the easiest process; maybe there’s an easier way now. Good luck!

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