A few months ago I decided that I wanted to travel and explore the world while doing something useful for our Mother Earth. But “How?” I asked myself. That was when I discovered World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). Through this network I found an eco farm in Southern Chile where I volunteered for two weeks. In return for my help I learned about permaculture and had the chance to exchange ideas and experiences with the local farmers and other volunteers.
WWOOF is a worldwide network of organic farms that works under the basis of trust and non-monetary exchange—volunteers work at organic farms in exchange for lodging, food and, of course, knowledge. The community is run by national and regional organisations. Jan-Philipp Gutt, a WWOOF host in Germany and an active member of the WWOOF community explains that “WWOOFing is for people who want to share daily life on an organic farm. Curiosity and willingness to adapt to new situations and lifestyles are maybe the most important preconditions”.A different lifestyle—that is what volunteers mainly want to experience and what hosts offer. Besides the fact that WWOOFers can use this kind of exchange to move around in a cheap way, it is the idea of getting new experiences that fascinates them about this exchange. “Through WWOOF, we usually get people who are genuinely interested in farming and gardening and enjoy being in the countryside. A lot of people see it as a great way to get a break from their studies or office jobs and do some hands-on physical work while learning new skills,” explains Anne Freitag, a former WWOOFer volunteer and now a host herself. In 2013, Anne quit her job, traveled to different countries and enjoyed several WWOOF experiences from which she collected inspiration. In Spring 2014, she moved with her partner to a smallholding near Hameln. Since then they have been renovating and preparing a project called the Simple Life Farm with the aim “to create an organic smallholding including a pasture, woodland and arable farmland that is designed to have all of the components working together so that we have minimal external inputs and maximum self produced outputs”. Of course they joined the German WWOOF community as hosts.
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