Wwoofing checklist – 9 things to ask your potential WWOOF host
Once you’ve found a potential WWOOF host, you need to make sure that your expectations are aligned. It’s important to know what you get yourself into, and for the host to plan ahead and see if they need to show you the ropes or just let you loose. That’s when a WWOOFing checklist comes in handy:
1. Basic working arrangements
Always make sure you are on the same page with regards to how many hours you work per day, what time of day, and whether your hosts are flexible, i.e., let you work a full day and give you a day off. The regular wwoof agreement is 4 hours of work for free food and accommodation, but this may vary.
2. The content of your work
You’ll definitely want to know what types of tasks await you at your chosen wwoof destination. Work can range from weeding and plant care to harvesting and cooking to building fences or taking care of animals. Some hosts expect you to do chores or prepare dinner for everyone at least once during your stay.
3. Sleeping arrangements
Will you be staying in a tent, a yurt, a campervan, a hut or in your own room in your host’s house? Always useful to know, especially with regards to weather conditions and your own requirements.
4. Living arrangements
Your hosts may have wwoofers all the time, year round, or just once in a while. They might want to spend lots of time with you, showing you around, expecting you to have all meals together with them. Or, they might prefer you to be a bit more independent, to make your own meals, and to just spend some time together on a few evenings.
5. Communication and connectivity
Since many farms are quite far out, mobile phone coverage or internet access is not always available. So it’s good to know beforehand what means of communication will be at your disposal during your stay, for keeping in touch with family, friends or for organisational purposes such as planning your onward journey or trying to sell your car before you leave the country.
6. Duration of stay
Some hosts prefer wwoofers to stay for a minimum period of time as some tasks may require a while to complete or need a few explanations and instructions, so it may be more time efficient to have one person involved in one activity as opposed to many and having to explain things over and over again. Hosts may also be interested in working together with you and getting to know you over one or two weeks’ time. Others instead prefer shorter stays of a few days only.
7. Size of household
Knowing some facts about the household makes it easier for you to gauge what your overall involvement will be like. Are your hosts a family with children? Is it just one person? Are there other wwoofers? Is it a community?
Some hosts may be strict vegetarians, whilst others are strictly not. Don’t forget to mention food allergies to your potential host!
9. Location, location, location
That’s when a detailed AA roadmap comes in very handy. Make sure you are clear on directions before you head out. You might not have mobile phone reception on the road to check back with the host.
WWOOF! – Say what?
Dogs don’t have much to do with it. But they may well be part of the picture… No worries, it gets less cryptic as you read on. And you should, especially if you want to meet locals and get to know their way of life. Or if you’re eager to be productive and get your hands dirty after weeks of travelling!
The WWOOF acronym originally stood for “Working Weekends on Organic Farms” when it started in the UK in 1971 and was later on changed to “Willing Workers on Organic Farms.” Nowadays it’s “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms” and has grown to a worldwide network that connects volunteers with organic farms to allow both parties to exchange ideas about sustainability and organic farming. It is a great way of spending some of your holidays doing something productive, learning new skills, increasing your knowledge about permaculture and self-sufficiency, and all that whilst getting to know locals, their land and their ways of life.
How WWOOFing works
Hosts don’t pay WWOOFers. The idea of WWOOFing is that volunteers normally work for 4 hours a day in exchange for food, accommodation and learning opportunities. Arrangements can be flexible, so that WWOOFers may work a full day and then take a day off.
How to get started: WWOOFing in New Zealand
It’s easy to join, just go to wwoof.co.nz and register with the organisation. There is a one-off fee of 40 NZD to join, and membership lasts for a year. Just go to www.wwoof.co.nz and sign up. You’ll receive one year of access to the web directory of wwoof hosts, and, if you want, a paper book with the same information (membership with a book is NZD 50). The latter always comes in handy when you don’t have an internet connection to look for your next host. The web platform also allows you to set up your own profile for WWOOF hosts to see. Put your picture up there, and a few lines on your background and what skills you have that could come in handy for WWOOF hosts. Just like you can search for your host by region, so can hosts search the profiles of potential WWOOFers.
During the summer months, it can be difficult to find a host at short notice as many are booked up 1-2 months in advance. Plan ahead and contact your chosen hosts at least a few weeks before your intended stay. If you’re struggling to find a host try the hotlist feature on the website; it works as a forum for hosts and WWOFers alike to post their need for / interest in filling an immediate vacancy.
Types of hosts
You can WWOOF on big farms with animals, small / family farms, or for people with a bit of land and a vegetable garden. Some set-ups are a bit more “special”, i.e., they couple their eco settlement with a spiritual retreat, or they have a bed and breakfast with a large organic vegetable garden and expect you to help out with the guest rooms. It’s always a good idea to read the host’s profile fully, so you know what the circumstances are. They usually indicate whether they are a single person household, a couple or a family with younger or older children.
Sometimes a host’s profile also contains information on where the WWOOFer stays. This can range from a tent you need to bring yourself, to a camper in the garden, to a hut to your own en-suite room in the host’s home.
What you’ll be doing
The range of activities is even more diverse. You could do anything from weeding to harvesting to building a shed. Here are some more common activities of WWOOFers:
- picking fruit
- harvesting vegetables
- preserving fruit and vegetables
- building / repairing fences
- building a shed or other support structures
- feeding animals
- milking cows
- compost making
- lawn mowing
- planting trees
- pruning trees
- caring for plants
- cutting wood
- building maintenance
- general farm duties
- light housework, e.g., cooking or cleaning
Before you go
The best hosts are found by recommendation. It helps to be in touch with the travellers’ community to get some insight into where to go from other WWOOFers. To judge whether a place is good for you or not, it’s best to speak to your future host on the phone to ask about what is important to you. If you need some inspiration, see my checklist for WWOOFing.
Stays at WWOOF places can last from a few days to a few weeks or more. If you stay somewhere for a little longer, it may also be a nice idea to bring a small present for your host.