What is WWOOFing? How to Travel the World on a Budget, Farm by Farm
When you’re on a budget, the idea of traveling can sound more like a dream than a reality. Even if you can save up for the plane ticket, how do you actually feed and house yourself once you get there? Enter WWOOFing.
You see, there are still magical pockets in society where money isn’t everything. Places where kindness, hospitality, and getting your hands dirty make all the difference. Places where you can eat organic food that you helped grow; places where you can be out in nature all day and surrounded by good people all night; places where going back to basics is the goal.
Alright, now that we have that mushy-gushy dream stuff out of the way, let’s talk about what WWOOFing actually is.
What is WWOOFing?
WWOOF stands for WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Essentially, this organization helps facilitate win-win situations between organic farmers around the world and travelers. Did I say around the world? You bet I did. Keep reading to hear where you can be a WWOOFer.
In exchange for daily work on their farms, WWOOFers are offered room and board for the duration of their work period. The duration can be anyway from 1 week to a number of months depending on the farm and your preferences.
How is WWOOFing a Win-Win?
As a broke traveler, the benefit of free room and board is obvious. WWOOFing gives you the opportunity to travel internationally and domestically on a very shoestring budget. Yes, you need to account for the cost of transportation, but that’s about it. If you’re willing to get your hands dirty and do some work every day on the farm, this can be a very attractive way to travel.
For farms, WWOOFing allows them to pay workers with a commodity they have a lot of: organic food and space to sleep. It takes a lot of time and money to run an organic farm, which can make it hard for farms to hire full-time employees for regular wages. They do have A LOT of what broke travelers are usually looking for though. By offering room and board as opposed to traditional wages, these farms are taking much less of a financial hit, while also offering travelers exactly what they need.
Where Can I Be a WWOOFer?
Just about anywhere. If you’re a high info person, here’s a list of all of the places with farms that participate in WWOOF. Click on each link to be brought to that country’s specific WWOOF page. If you’re not into this much info, skip this section and know there’re A LOT of places to choose from.
To make this list more fun, check out some fun foods from around the world that will make you hungry and ready to visit some of these countries.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
United States of America
All of these countries are great! I can’t choose!
That’s okay! As a WWOOFer, you can travel between a number of different farms. Some WWOOFers travel around the world, going from one farm to the other. Be sure to account for any travel expenses if you plan to do a lot of farm hopping. Also note that some farms require WWOOFers to stay for a number of months, so be sure to check your desired farm’s requirements.
As we’ll discuss in the next section, each region has their own local WWOOF chapter. The larger WWOOF organization serves to be a central hub for all of them, but when it comes time to choosing a specific country and a specific farm, you will need to register and pay the WWOOF fees for that local WWOOF chapter.
If you plan to do some farm hopping, consider the time commitment of joining all of these individual chapters and vetting all of the farms you hope to visit. There’s no doubt this is fun, but a time commitment nonetheless.
How Does WWOOFing Work Exactly?
We’ve been dancing around this topic, but it’s time to jump in headfirst. So, how do I actually start WWOOFing?!
As I mentioned, each region has their own local WWOOF chapter. You’ll be working with this local chapter when you set out to find a farm, so it’s important you familiarize yourself with the local chapter of your choice.
If you plan to farm hop or don’t know which country you want to visit, choose a country that catches your eye just so that you can familiarize yourself with the process.
The websites of each organization serve as their own little treasure troves of info. While the larger WWOOF site can give tell you about the program in general, each local WWOOF website will tell you everything you need to know about WWOOFing in that specific location. If you’re on the fence about where you want to visit, these individual sites can help you discern which country has the qualities you’re looking for. Did anyone else swoon over the kangaroo on the Australia WWOOF site?
Once you’ve chosen the country (or countries) you want to visit, sign up as a WWOOFer with them. Each origination will have a fee that’s due upon sign-up. These fees vary widely depending on the country you choose, but none of them will bankrupt you.
After you’ve registered as a WWOOFer with a local chapter and paid the fees, you’re free to search for your dream farm! Once you’re this far into the process, it’s best to take your cues from the local chapter that’s supporting you. With over 120+ countries that all run their WWOOF chapters differently, it’s hard to give you specific info as to what to expect.
That said, you’ll be working directly with your host farm to determine how many hours per week you’ll be working, how long you’ll stay at the farm, and what type of work you’ll be doing. Each country and farm also have their own rules regarding the age of WWOOFers and whether children can come along.
Once you’ve connected with a farm and you’ve set your travel plans, get your ducks in a row for international travel (if you’re travelling internationally). WWOOF does not take responsibility for helping you get Visas, telling you which shots you need to get, or arranging your travel plans.
Follow the guidelines laid out for traveling to the country you’ve chosen and take the steps required to insure safe and legal travel there.
Q: Do I need to speak the language of the country?
A: No, not necessarily. Your ability to communicate and connect with your hosts will play a role in your overall experience. Especially for your first WWOOFing experience, it may be good to go to a farm where they speak your native language.
If you want to be adventurous and go to a place where you don’t know the language, take some time to learn it, at least a little bit. While you don’t need to be fluent in the host language, it’s common courtesy to be able to express gratitude, ask basic questions, and deliver greetings.
Q: Should I get travel insurance?
A: It really depends on how well you tolerate risk. Depending on the plan you choose, travel insurance will cover anything from lost luggage, trip cancellations, medical needs, and more. Travelinsurance.com makes it really easy to choose a plan that accommodates your budget and your needs. Even if you’re not sure whether you want travel insurance, you can check out their website to see what your options are.
Q: Did my host farm pass a security check?
A: This is an important question to ask your local WWOOF chapter. Yes, it’s likely that your host farm passed a security check, but you will want to double check before moving forward.
Q: What if I’ve never worked on a farm before?
A: That’s ok! When connecting with hosts, you’ll learn what their needs are and whether they are open to teaching you any required skills. That said, you need to go in ready to learn. And also ready to do some hard work. Yes, you are getting room and board, but that’s in exchange for productive work that benefits the farm. Only choose WWOOFing if you’re ready to get your hands dirty for multiple hours every day.
Q: What types of farms are available?
A: The type of farm is dependent on the region you choose. If you’re more interested in a certain type of farm than you are in a certain country, you can do a search to reflect that. Looking solely at the WWOOF USA site, you can choose farms of every type: garden, homestead, community, market/CSA, permaculture, vegetables, orchard, vineyard, dairy, livestock, ranch/livestock, flower farm, and vegan-friendly. It’ll be challenging to find your ideal location with your ideal farm type, so it’s best to be flexible on one or the other.
That’s about it! If you’re still interested in being a WWOOFer after reading this post, scan through some of the local chapter pages for a farm that’s right for you.