Monday, October 26, 2009

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF)

Location: global

Sue Coppard

What started off in 1971 as an experiment by Londoner Sue Coppard in weekend farming volunteering, has morphed into a loose network of national organizations that link volunteers with organic farmers, changing names from Working Weekends on Organic Farms to Willing Workers on Organic Farms, and subsequently to World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms in 2000. Its stated goals are to provide volunteers first-hand experience with organic growing methods and rural life, as well as to further the organic movement. In exchange for volunteering typically 4 to 6 hours a day, the host farmers provide food, accommodation and farming education to their guests.

The farms may range from private gardens and co-operatively operated ventures to commercial farms. The program is popular amongst students looking for an inexpensive way to visit different countries, as well as with those interested in starting their own organic farming or gardening practices. Stays may be arranged for as little as a week to as long as an entire growing season or more. Each of the 40 participating countries has its own network with a list of farms that may be accessed only after paying a (somewhat nominal) membership fee. The lack of free access to the number of farms participating in each country combined with the lack of data recollection on the number of volunteers participating in the movement renders it difficult to assess WOOFF’s overall impact. However, one of my friends who WOOFFed this summer in France said there were over 200 participating farms in that country alone.

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