USA is not considered to be a country in need of volunteers. Very well developed, economically powerful, there’s not so many social projects in which international volunteers could participate. When I was looking for a volunteering opportunity, most of the offers were either working in a hostel or helping someone around the house.
Not quite what I wanted to do.
I want my job to have a positive impact on the world (yes, yes I’m still naïve enough to believe that I can make world a better place :)). Even though the hostel guests would probably be happy with a breakfast I prepare, that’s not what I was looking for.
That’s why I decided to WWOOF. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a network of organizations which facilitate placement of volunteers on organic farms. For their work volunteers are provided with food and accommodation. For me, a person who has lived in a city my whole life, work on a farm sounded very abstract. And it was another interesting challenge! It taught me an important life lesson indeed!
If working on a farm doesn’t sound exciting for you remember there are other opportunities. Check what I was doing on Global Volunteer program in Russia and what are my hints and opinions about volunteering with AIESEC.
How WWOOF works?
1. WWOOF – choice of organization
As I mentioned above, WWOOF is not one organization, it’s a network. There is a WWOOF organization in many countries in the world and their complete list can be found on WWOOF.net. You can’t become an international member of WWOOF. You need to choose the country first and then buy a membership in a respective organization.
2. Can I access a list of farms without being registered?
WWOOF USA allows you to see how many farms there is in a given surrounding or state. You can filter the results using various criteria: when the farm is open, length of visit, number of visitors, farm type, diet and lodging type or languages spoken on the farm. You can’t access the farm information an details yet.
3. How much does a WWOOF membership cost?
When you choose a country and find a respective WWOOF organization (WWOOF USA in my case) you need to become a member in order to get access to full information on the farms. Yearly membership in WWOOF USA costs 40$. There’s no limit on how many farms you can work during this time.
4. What does WWOOF membership give me?
As I mentioned above, it gives you access to full information on all farms belonging to the organization. You can check since when the farm has been registered, there is a detailed description of the farm – what do they do exactly and what they need help with.
Lodging type is described – it’s usually a bedroom in the farm owner’s house but it can also be a tent or an RV. You will also be able to check the farm rules.
Farm owners often are vegetarian or vegan and they require the same diet from you while you are there, they sometimes don’t accept smoking or drinking alcohol. You can also read opinions written by other WWOOFers. You get a possibility to contact the farm owner and you can check how long it usually takes them to respond – some very remote farms need up to a month.
5. I am a WWOOF member already – what do I do next?
Find a farm and contact its owners, simple as that 🙂 Tell them why you decided to WWOOF and why you want to work on their farm more than on any other. Wait for a response patiently. Finalize the details – go and have fun 🙂
I chose my farm quite quickly. I filtered all available farms by “ranch / livestock” because I’m much more interested in working with animals than with plants only. I also didn’t want to work on a very remote farm – I am really too used to spending my time close to cities 🙂
That’s how I found SkyWater Ranch and Sanctuary – a place near Sacramento where they take care of hurt or sick birds and wildlife. I worked there for 3 weeks. Check what was my WWOOFing day like!
And if you decided to go – let me help you plan your trip to USA setp by step!
Also I recently got to know about a WWOOF alternative which seems great because it looks simpler and it’s free – Hippohelp. I haven’t tried it myself yet but it seems great too, let me know if you have any related experience, it might be worth trying 🙂
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