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January 15, 2012#

WWOOF: Organic Farm Exchanges

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of hosting someone in my driveway, sleeping in their car, in the wee hours of the morning. It’s a long story that involves a hybrid; a backwoods trip with a love; Yellowstone; Big Sur; firedancing and Henry Miller’s library. It’s also a story that doesn’t have much to do with green or sustainable lifestyles, except for the hybrid, but since it’s taking a thousand-mile trip, I’m not sure it counts anymore.

The part of the story that pertains to this website is the part where I invited the sleeping-in-the-car-until-10am guest into my kitchen for some pie, coffee and orange juice – breakfast of champions, or at least of this writer. He was very thankful and complimented me on my hostessing abilities. Travelers are the nicest and most grateful guests.

We got to talking, and I quickly learned to call him Ian, rather than car-guy, and it didn’t take long before we were discussing sustainability and Central America (not necessarily in the same context, but one led to the other – I swear it made sense over rhubarb pie). He mentioned woofing and I had to ask him to repeat himself several times before he finally literally spelled it out for me: Wwoofing. Turns out this is a verb used to describe WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), an organization that brings organic farms together with volunteers to help work those farms. It also turns out this is a bit of a popular thing nowadays amongst travelers looking for a good way to stay and eat while giving back, with the added benefit of doing so in a foreign place. Here’s how WWOOF describes their project:

“One-half day of volunteer help is traded for food and accommodation, with no money exchanged. The WWOOF-USA® Host Farm Directory lists more than one-thousand organic farms (not necessarily USDA certified organic) and gardens across the country. The Host Farm profile contains information about the location, general responsibilities, and lifestyle of the host. Any farm, community, or garden project in the US that is willing to host and accommodate volunteers can participate in our program. We encourage all types of volunteers and hosts who can cooperate to strengthen sustainable agriculture worldwide to be a part of WWOOF-USA®. The program is open to anyone 18 years of age or older, regardless of experience.
“WWOOF farms offer a variety of educational opportunities, including growing vegetables, keeping bees, building straw bale houses, working with animals, making wine, and much more. With over a thousand farms in all 50 states, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, there is something for everyone.”

There are 205 host farms in California, and I’m thinking I might volunteer for a few days somewhere local, just for the experience and fun of it.

- Jocelyn Broyles

Headline image © Michael Wolcott