Farm Volunteers: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

     image courtesy of Culinary Cory

Budget travel. Eco-tourism. Agri-tourism.

If you’re looking for the kind of relaxation that comes from sitting on a beach, this is not for you. If you take your rusticity in small, controlled doses then I suggest you look elsewhere.

If you would like to make a genuine connection with the food you eat, gain some practical skills, and immerse yourself in the culture of the sustainable food movement, this is your opportunity.

There are networks of small, mostly family-run farms throughout the U.S. and Europe that host volunteers in exchange for meals and accommodations. The expectation is typically 4 hours a day of farm work. The experiences are as varied as the farms. You can spend a week at a cheese cooperative in the south of France or the summer helping with a medicinal herb garden on a small resort island in Washington state. Accommodations range from rustic to sublime: you could be bunking in a hayloft or a hotel suite, with most arrangements falling somewhere in the middle on the comfort scale.

A number of agricultural associations and volunteer networks make it easy to find opportunities online.

The largest and most established of these is Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms known as WWOOF. In its 30th year, WWOOF has member chapters on every continent so that WWOOFers can string together volunteer opportunities that take them across regions and countries.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service and the New England Small Farm Institute are large clearinghouses for small farms throughout North America.

Help Exchange is strongest in Australia and New Zealand. It lists host organic and non-organic farms, plus work exchange opportunities for ranches, lodges, and ships.

GrowFood’s mission is the most explicitly educational. Many of the participating farms welcome children and offer weekend work exchange experiences. Currently GrowFood lists nearly 2,000 opportunities across the U.S.

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4 Responses to Farm Volunteers: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

  1. Pingback: Gigabiting » Blog Archive » Culinary Crusaders: lending a hand in the volunteer kitchen

  2. Zibi says:

    My husband and I have talked about doing this. Thanks for reminding me and sharing the links.

  3. Janice says:

    I hope you’ll keep me posted. i would love to hear about your experience.

  4. I hope to wwoof for a couple of weeks this year — a couple I know actually met while wwoofing A great way to visit places and learn new skills.

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