Cultural exchange and education – that’s what WWOOF is all about. This stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms. A great way to really get to know the culture of a country.
Very gently, the swing in which I’m sitting while writing this swings back and forth. The wind blows the sweet scent of lilac and apple blossoms, ants crawl across my feet, and when I look over the edge of the screen, I look at dark red tulips, a nicely arranged stone circle on the hillside framed by a dense forest of young birches.
Canada is the first stop on my journey around the world. From east to west, from Toronto to Vancouver, I want to cross the country, which has been consistently among the top ten of the happiest countries in the world for years. In the German media there is hardly any reporting on the country with 37 million inhabitants instead – so at least my feeling. Photos from there promise turquoise blue lakes and imposing mountains.
However, Canada is also on the list of the most expensive travel destinations. How can this be combined with a limited travel fund? By wwoofing. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms are available in almost every country in the world. The idea: As a volunteer, you live and work on a farm for food and lodging. Five or six hours a day, the farms expect support with learning being the main focus.
Away from the desk, into the chicken coop – a great start to a world trip, I think. I arrived at Dawn‘s and Bill‘s close to Owen Sound, about 200 kilometers north of Toronto. It’s the first of four wwoof stations on my journey. More about the little paradise and the wonderful teacher couple will be here soon.
“WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms is part of a worldwide movement linking visitors with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange thereby helping to build a sustainable global community“, reads the website of Wwoof International.
Visa requirements vary by country. In Canada, no work visa is needed, as long as
– tourist activities are the main reason for the journey,
– wwoofers stay exclusively on non-commercial farms, and
– a farm visit does not exceed four weeks.
A good preparation is important to explain the border officials credibly, that one has no intention to pursue paid work. Wwoofing means to be a volunteer. While the entrants before and after me in line were able to pick up their suitcases right after answering border control‘s usual questions I had to see another border official. Fortunately, he was familiar with Wwoof.
How do I find a farm?
If you become part of a country’s Wwoof Association, you pay a small fee each year (in Canada, it‘s 50 CAD). Each woofer can then fill in a profile on which he describes himself by means of photos and small texts. The farms present themselves on a profile as well. This way you can tell in advance what farms and wwoofers expect during their stay. Both sides can also specify available periods.
Farms are sorted by category and region so wwoofers can find out whether they want to learn in a particular region or about specific animals or ways of working and producing methods.
The first contact takes place via the Wwoof platform. Both sides are allowed to take the first step.