Welcome to our WWOOF website portal!
I hope it will be extremely successful in spreading the WWOOF message far and wide: what WWOOF is, what it does, and why. So, a warm welcome to all our users.
As you may already know, WWOOF was born in the autumn of 1971 when I, a London secretary pining for the countryside, came up with a plan for staying on farms in return for my help: Working Weekends On Organic Farms. Through helpful contacts and courtesy of London’s TIME OUT magazine classified ads, the idea took off – to my amazement and delight – and we began life with 15 enquirers and a trial weekend for four at Emerson College’s biodynamic farm in deepest Sussex. What bliss that first weekend was: fresh air, sun and birdsong, owls hooting at night, herbs drying from the rafters, and a luscious strawberries and cream tea in the barn with pigeons cooing aloft. Apart from which, we had some very interesting conversations as we hewed down encroaching brambles and cleared blocked streams, and also met the students at mealtimes.
I had obviously tapped a deep-seated need for contact with nature. WWOOF expanded steadily with both helper and host membership increasing. Hedge laying, sowing, collecting the eggs, compost making, rounding up sheep, cider making, fruit picking, dry stone walling – you name it we did it. And it was extremely satisfying to know that our amateur endeavors were really helpful to our hosts. We achieved a lot in a weekend! (Speaking also as a gardener who has had the pleasure of weekend WWOOFers, I can vouch for this.) And as we learned the Why’s and How’s of organic farming we became enthusiastic converts to the “Organic Cause”.
WWOOF soon spread abroad and today, some 45 years later, we have gone global with our name now changed to World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. There are currently around 60 WWOOF organisations and you can WWOOF in over 130 countries. In fact the sun never sets on WWOOF! It’s a wonderful way to experience rural life, see beautiful places, get physical exercise, and learn how to produce healthy food sustainably – enriching rather than depleting the soil; not to mention experiencing many different cultures – and much more. Belonging to WWOOF has added immeasurably to my life, in particular the friends I’ve made. People in the organic movement are special: kind, concerned about the environment, knowledgeable about health matters, and interesting and fun to be with. It’s like belonging to a worldwide family of kindred spirits, all working together to further a vital movement.
Over time, WWOOF has adapted to the needs of different countries. Weekend WWOOFing is still available in some countries (including the UK) – a wonderful way for town bound members of all ages and in regular jobs to recharge their batteries. However, due to the greater distances in larger countries, longer stays are now the norm.
National WWOOF groups are all self-governing but co-ordinate regularly to keep the movement in good working order and introduce improvements. The latest, extremely valuable, initiative is entitled LLOOF – Living & Learning On Organic Farms: an e-learning platform, brilliantly created by ten European WWOOF groups and funded by the EU, which provides educational material about farming and sustainability in a modular format. The website will continue to expand and include more videos demonstrating practical organic techniques as they are submitted by members. An invaluable facility for those who can’t manage to get conventional training.
Because the “Organic Cause” is inspiring (and also no doubt because our help is voluntary!), WWOOF attracts many altruistic and active members who in due course become bright, dedicated organisers. Having attended quite a few international gatherings, I consider WWOOF to be exceedingly well governed. It’s not a pyramid power structure with a governing hierarchy but a federation of equals making it a stable body: if one WWOOF should get it wrong it’s not going to upset the whole works. And whatever challenges arise, WWOOF members will come up with solutions and put them into practice. Thus WWOOF is able to concentrate on its main purpose:
Helping to save the planet by spreading sound farming and growing practices, and offering a healthier, happier lifestyle to all.