So You Want to WWOOF: 3 Tips to volunteering on your first organic farm.

By Posted in - Big Trip & Budget Travel & Featured Post & Photography Posts & Photos & Travel Resources & Volunteering & wwoofing on December 8th, 2010
pin it button So You Want to WWOOF: 3 Tips to volunteering on your first organic farm
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The skies over Pontassieve. The view is from the farm.

It’s cold in New England now. The trees are bare and darkness comes early, and it’s just a matter of time until the first big snow. Weather reports from central Italy are no different. For farmers in Tuscany, the race is on to finish their olive harvests or prepare their properties for winter. Since arriving home in mid-October, I have received weekly emails from WWOOF Italia passing on “S.O.S” notices from Italian organic farms in need of a few extra hands to help sustain their livelihood, and I know now that with a short email message to one of the farms I could be back in Italy for an extended, budget stay.

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The bedroom shared by the wwoofers. I loved the wood beams and bright windows.

“Ciao, I need help from WWOOFers…collecting firewood, in the house and vegetable garden. I only speak Italian. I will do everything I can to make your stay comfortable but I am a shepherd who has lived alone for many years with my sheep and am a man of few words! I can, however, teach you a great deal. Minimum stay three weeks,” a farmer in Modena writes. Another states simply, “Salve, help needed with our olive harvest from 9-16 December, Grazie.” Worldwide Work On Organic Farms or WWOOF is not indicative to Italy, in fact, WWOOFing can be found the world over. From America to Thailand, volunteers agree to work on farms, wineries and agro tourism establishments in trade for room and meals.

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Fattoria Cerreto Libri - the farm we wwoofed at.

In September, Beth and I volunteered at Fattoria Cerreto Libri, a biodynamic farm and winery near Florence. For two weeks we worked the grape harvest, picking red and white varietals in the morning and mid-afternoon in vineyards older the United States. Perched on a hill overlooking the one-pub town of Pontassieve, we as well as six other WWOOFers resided in a beautiful 19th century stone guest house. Lunches felt like a family-affair. Wine and conversation flowed freely throughout the amazing three-course lunches, which were always followed by café and an occasional homemade desert before heading back out to the fields. Initially, we had only planed on staying 10 days, but with work still to be done, and nowhere in particular to go, Beth and I decided to stay and help for several extra days (for pictures and more details about our time on the farm check out: WWOOFing in Italy).

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A typical, amazing lunch during the work day. Oh I miss these days!

Budgeting for extended travel can be difficult, especially in European hot spots, like France, England and Italy. Before and after we volunteered, we ate a lot of pizza, paninis, and cheese and bread (as seen in Eating Cheap in Europe)—basically any cheap staple food we could find—occasionally splurging on more expensive dinners, but even then we never felt the quality justified the price, nor was it the best representation of a region’s cuisine. WWOOFing changed that. If you’ve been wondering how to get involved in WWOOFing, but weren’t sure where to start, we’ve compiled a few tips below to help you out.

Too Legit to Quit:

Once you decide where you want to WWOOF, the next step is to visit that country’s site, for example, www.wwoofitalia.com for WWOOF Italia, and pay, currently $25, for the yearly membership, which will give you access to the 2010 WWOOF Italia farm list. You will be required to present your membership card to your host during your stay. Alternatively, at least with WWOOF Italia, your membership card can be mailed to your host’s address if you are away from your permanent residence.

Don’t Fake the Funk on a Nasty Dunk:

In other words, be realistic about what you need to make your stay work for you. For example, if you need internet or WiFi, make sure you ask your host prior to accepting to volunteer at their farm if it’s available. Also, understand that you are there to work. If you are going to volunteer during a grape harvest in Italy, then you will most likely work 6-8 hours Monday-Saturday. Most farms on the WWOOF list give a detailed explanation of your duties, but if you have any questions or are unsure, just send the potential host an email asking about what their expectations are of volunteers.

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride:

“SOS, a lot of farms need help for the olive harvest urgently, most of them because they have been let down by WWOOFers canceling at the last minute or not bothering to turn up at all…PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS,” stated a recent email from WWOOF Italia. It’s imperative that if you commit to a host, you follow through. By flaking or canceling, you are messing with the farmer’s livelihood. These aren’t large corporations, they are family businesses and their commitment to organic farming depends on volunteers, so if you have any doubts about fulfilling your commitment, then do not agree to work.

Getting involved in WWOOFing is incredibly easy and, as I said earlier, a great way to extend your budget, especially in more costly areas, while giving back and supporting healthier environments for farmers and their families.

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Overlooking the olive trees out the back door of the villa.

Note from Beth:

Please wwoof – we LOVED it and I can’t wait to do it again. It was a great experience and one I’ll never forget. I have a lot more pictures and posts coming up here about our time wwoofing in Italy so stay tuned. icon smile So You Want to WWOOF: 3 Tips to volunteering on your first organic farm

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*Please remember all photos on this website are copyrighted and property of BeersandBeans.com, NarikosNest.com & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you want to use one of them please contact me to ask first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!

 


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(40) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Ayngelina - Reply

    December 8, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    It’s official, I must do this. I wonder if anyone has had a good experience in Chile or Argentina.

    • Bethany - Reply

      December 9, 2010 at 8:19 am

      I haven’t heard any reports from South America but I was thinking of doing it in Columbia as well. My recommendations are

      to try to get a farm near a large city and try to get a farm w/ other wwoofers if possible. We made a lot of great friends at the farm that made the experience so much better! Good luck and let me know what you find :) @Ayngelina,

  • Sarah Wu - Reply

    December 8, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    wow are those all volunteers at the table? Seems like a great experience to have!

    • Bethany - Reply

      December 9, 2010 at 8:22 am

      Hi Sarah,
      No, It is mostly volunteers but the 4 people at the far end of the table are friends of the hosts. Occasionally they would come for lunch too which made it even more interesting and fun. :) @Sarah Wu,

      • sarah wu - Reply

        December 9, 2010 at 8:36 am

        Oh, I see. That’s one fun warming lunch time then!

  • Lorna – the roamantics - Reply

    December 9, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    great post & photos yet again guys! i can’t wait to do this. i’d heard about wwoofing in the past, but hadn’t heard any personal stories. i’m definitely going to do this now and can’t wait to read more about your experience in future posts :)

    • Bethany - Reply

      December 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm

      It was a blast. You have to ask Todd and Benita though about the one they did before this one in the Alps. Todd told the story at dinner one night and it was hysterical! And also did not sound as fun as the one we did at Cerreto Libri – Benita got to pick flowrs and herbs all day while Todd had to break down rocks. not fun! @Lorna – the roamantics,

  • Jools Stone - Reply

    December 9, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I’d really like to try this too. Is it possible to get stays for couples with a simple private room? I’d also like to work with animals.

    • Bethany - Reply

      December 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm

      You should definitely do it. It was a blast. It is possible to work with animals and to get a private room. It just depends on the situation. In fact, one couple had a private room at this farm in particular but honestly I really liked being in the large room above because the light was so amazing and I loved waking up and seeing the Tuscan hillsides out the window. Focus on a country that you’d like to Wwwoof in and then sign up for that country to get the list. From the list you can narrow through which ones have private rooms and need help with animals. They are all different. For instance, one of the girls at this farm went to another one afterwards where she had an entire apt. to herself for a month and I think it may have been a farm with animals too. @Jools Stone,

  • Erica - Reply

    December 10, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Just thought you guys would like to know that due to your experiences Shaun and I have decided to give it a go when we’re heading through Central/South America. Totally stoked. <3

    • Bethany - Reply

      December 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm

      Yah!!! I am so excited you’re going to do it. I know you’re going to like it. I am counting down to the next one! Another added bonus? I lost over 10 lbs in 2 weeks while eating amazing food! Seriously I want to do it for a couple months straight. I really loved it.@Erica,

      • Bethany - Reply

        December 10, 2010 at 4:17 pm

        Oh yeah, first look for a farm near some sort of big city (so you can get out and see things on your time off) and then I recommend finding a place with other volunteers for the first round. Really the people made the experience as awesome as it was. @Bethany,

  • Brooke vs. the World - Reply

    December 10, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I must Wwoof! Great tips, especially about not backing out at the last minute!

  • Kim - Reply

    December 15, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Amazing, those pictures really sold me. We’ve been considering wwoofing when we go on our RTW. From your experience, how far in advance do you secure a spot on a farm?

    • Bethany - Reply

      December 15, 2010 at 8:25 pm

      Hi Kim. I definitely recommend it and I have a ton more photos that are coming up in the next couple of months that can give you even more of an idea. As far as booking in advance we didn’t and I think we got lucky. We decided do look for places about 1 – 2 weeks ahead of time. We wrote to maybe 5 people and heard back from most of them. Three of them invited us to their farm. However I met someone on the farm that did all the research a couple months ahead of time and hardly heard back from anyone. If there’s an area you really want to do it in, you might want to look into it a little ahead of time and start writing to hosts. I’m not sure if we got lucky or people starting getting more desperate as the wine season got closer. I’m planning on wwoofing in Thailand in Feb. and I’m going to look into farms in the next couple of weeks. @Kim,

  • Beth Partin - Reply

    December 31, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Beautiful photographs. I hope I can take some that good someday.

    • Bethany - Reply

      January 2, 2011 at 10:17 am

      Thanks for your wonderful compliment Beth! If you ever want any photo tips just contact me. :) @Beth Partin,

  • [...] Salvon wrote How to volunteer on your first organic farm posted at Beers & Beans.com. Truthfully, the photography work in this post are enough to [...]

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jenny Leonard. Jenny Leonard said: RT @BeersandBeans WWOOF Tips|How to volunteer on your first organic farm | beersandbeans.com http://bit.ly/eZJ3ct [...]

  • Patricia GW - Reply

    January 6, 2011 at 7:45 am

    I would love to do this now, it sounds like you guys had such a worthwhile experience WWOOFing in Italia. Have you heard or experienced any duties to be very laborious, or backbreaking?

    • Bethany - Reply

      January 6, 2011 at 9:22 am

      Hi Patricia, thanks for commenting! We had a fantastic, unbelievable time! and yes the duties were very laborious. Well tecnhically cutting grapes is not very hard but lifting boxes of them and walking w/ the boxes up and down the vineyard hills is. However there are a lot of wwoofing things that aren’t laborious at all. It depends on the farm and what they need. We wanted to do the grape harvest in Tuscany so it was tough but another girl we met had spent the week before picking raspberries for only about 4 hours each day and had the rest of the time to herself. If you really want to do it in Italy i suggest you buy the membership and check out what the different farms need. They are all really different. You can also read this post here: http://beersandbeans.com/2010/09/26/wwoof-in-italy/ and we’ll have more coming up too! on the plus side I lost 10 lbs in two weeks and ate the most amazing food ever! The whole experience was fantastic. @Patricia GW,

  • Michael Hodson - Reply

    January 10, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Have never done this, but you make it sound really appealing. And as usual, your photos are great. Thanks for the info!

    • Bethany - Reply

      January 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Yeah, it was a really great experience for us. Because we
      were on a tight budget, at times, we felt like we were missing out
      on some of the great cuisine and wine of Italy so WWOOFing gave us
      a chance to really indulge!

  • [...] For more information on WWOOFing, check out our recent post: So You Want to WWOOF: 3 Tips to volunteering on your first organic farm [...]

  • Concetta Wojner - Reply

    January 17, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Most of the blogs online are pretty much the same but i honestly enjoyed what i read. Grats !

  • [...] forlongterm travel tips, then visit beersandbeans.com to find the best advice on WWOOFing at winery and volunteering around the world. | | | | | [...]

  • [...] environments, and ultimately making a small impact in the world.Want to find out more about WWOOFing on organic farms, then visit Randy Kalp’s site for more information about what WWOOF traveling is like.Related [...]

  • Lauren Rains @ The Mad to Live - Reply

    October 18, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Just this morning I was writing out a list of ways I’d like to spend the next 6 months before I move to Spain. One of them was to try WOOFing for the first time. And then, a few hours later, I happen upon your blog and see this post in the slideshow. I’m going to take this as a sign that this is DEFINITELY something that I need to keep investigating!

    Keep rockin it,
    Lauren :)

  • Bethany - Reply

    October 19, 2011 at 1:38 am

    @Lauren Rains @ The Mad to Live, Thanks Lauren! Yeah, you should definitely give it a go. We just finished up a couple of weeks WWOOFing in Serbia and it was fantastic. I’ve also heard there are some really nice farms in Spain too! Let us know if you have any questions. -Randy

  • Jennifer - Reply

    December 19, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Hey! I am thinking about doing this in spring of 2012. Did you have to get a visa?

    • Randy - Reply

      December 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm

      @Jennifer, Hi Jennifer,

      Thanks for writing. No, you don’t need a visa to WWOOF.

  • Dave from ACoupleTravelers - Reply

    May 28, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Definitely interested in WOOFing while we’re abroad, thanks for this article

    • Bethany - Reply

      March 4, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Glad to help. We loved WWOOFing! :)

  • Tom @ Waegook Tom - Reply

    March 4, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Thanks for the info, guys! I’m considering this next year, but probably going to go with HelpExchange instead, but after looking at both sites, I think the same principles can be applied.

    • Bethany - Reply

      March 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Hi Tom, Glad to help. We have never done WorkExchange. I would def. be willing to try it out but I have to say one thing I like about WWOOFing is the green/organic aspect to it. Would love to hear your experiences with it when your done though. :)

  • [...] are big fans of ‘wwoofing’  (WWOF = World Wide Opportunities on Organic [...]

  • Angela - Reply

    August 26, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks for the pics and tips I am going to be wwoofing in Bulgaria and Greece in 2 weeks and I can’t wait!

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