Willing to “wwoof”

Bienvenue à la ferme ab

Image via Wikipedia

Imagine working in the hot sun all day weeding row after row of beans or trimming olive trees or herding pigs.

Sound fun? No?

If you think not, you need to consider the “wwooffers.” All over the world, the young and the able  are volunteering weeks and months of their time to do intensive labor on organic and small farms. In return, they get a place to sleep and three meals a day. And no pay.

What began in England 40 years ago as a way of finding an opportunity to experience the wonders of nature has grown into an international movement that supports organic and sustainable farms. Thousands of volunteers fan out to small operations to offer a week, a month or more of free labor. Given the condition of the world’s environment, sustainable and organic farming — much of which is accomplished on small, family farms — is critical for the future, one that students are especially attuned to. After all, it’s their future.

By one count, some 50 organizations in more than 100 countries have networks the coordinate “wwoofers.” While it is an opportunity for students to experience the world in a new way, it also makes the world a little better. Think of it as changing the world one weed at a time.

For JMU alumna Nicole Martorana (’07) “wwoofing” meant herding pigs and trimming olive trees as part of a summer of travel last year. Earlier Nicole had spent a semester abroad in Florence. “I always knew that when I left Florence, I’d be back,” she says.

Go back she did. Like so many of today’s students, travel means far more than a traditional tourist adventure to exotic locations. For many, travel is an opportunity to learn and to make a difference. Other countries are different parts of the world — but parts of their world.

This summer, after his own study abroad experience in Florence, rising senior Peter Jackson (’12) took his own turn “wwoofing.” He writes: “I went to an organic farm in Piemonte in the Alps. There I learned all about organic farming techniques and worked everywhere the family needed my help. In return, I got a bed and three meals each day (a good deal).”

That’s not all Peter did.  After “wwoofing,” Peter headed to Zambia, one of the poorest countries in the world.  In a future blog, I’ll share about that experience. (You will not want to miss it!)

For students like Peter and Nicole, changing the world is only a matter of taking a step out of the ordinary. It’s part of the culture of JMU, whether it’s in Europe or Harrisonburg or Zambia.

You can learn more about wwoofing at: http://wwoof.org/

You can also follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/WWOOF?sk=wall


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

2 Responses to Willing to “wwoof”

  1. Pingback: Have You WWOOFed Lately? World Travel For Free While Meeting the Locals. « Alternative Health Answers

  2. Katana says:

    I’m considering wwoofing – thanks for your post!


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