Top 10 Tips for New WWOOFers

Jun 17, 2024

If you’re new to volunteer exchanges, setting yourself up for your first trip away can be daunting. If you’ve just joined WWOOF and you’re also new to farming and alternative lifestyles, it could be double daunting! Mixed feelings of nervousness and excitement are very normal, so here are some top tips to lend you confidence and give your trip every chance of success.

1. What do you want to get from your experience?

Take time to think about what you want to gain from WWOOFing. Perhaps you’d like to learn something specific like chicken keeping, tree pruning or how to live off grid. Maybe you want to visit a part of the country you’ve never seen before or conversely, meet new people in your own local area. Do you want a place where there are lots of other volunteers (in which case consider a community) or would you prefer somewhere quieter? Read reviews that other volunteers have left on the host’s profile to make sure they can provide what you’re looking for.

2. Ask Lots of Questions, Set Clear Expectations

This is the big one. We don’t receive many complaints – just a tiny fraction of the exchanges that take place – but most of them are down to misunderstandings which could have been avoided with clearer communication. Read a host’s description well and if they sound good, write them a personalized message. Check your WWOOFer profile contains all the information you want your host to know and add more in your opening message to them. Explain what you like about their description and why you’d like to volunteer with them in particular. Always exchange a number of messages beforehand to get an accurate picture of the host and give them an accurate picture of you. Asking the right questions can make a huge difference in determining if this host is right for you.

3. Schedule a Phone Date

Once you’ve read over the host’s profile, they’ve read over yours and you’ve exchanged a number of messages back and forth, the next step is to do a phone or video call. This can really help you to determine if you and the host will get along. Are you going to vibe well? Will you feel comfortable in their home? You can even ask them to give you a quick tour of the WWOOFer accommodations to ensure that they will meet your needs. Remember hosts come in all shapes and sizes, its up to you to determine if this host is the right one for you.

4. Plan in advance

Work out when and how long you can go WWOOFing for (a weekend? A fortnight? A year?) and get planning good and early, especially if you’re hoping to volunteer in July and August when hosts often fill up or go away. Committing to a couple of weeks in the first instance is a good idea. If you like a place and they like you, a stay can often be extended. And remember, land based activities are seasonal! You can’t help with lambing in September or cider making in March.

5. Keep your WWOOF word

Always do your best to honour the agreement you make with your host. They will have planned tasks around your stay, bought food for you and probably turned away other helpers because you were booked in. It will be very annoying and disruptive to their lives if you cancel at the very last moment for anything other than an emergency. If you simply don’t turn up (it does happen) they will worry and contact the office. Please, do honour your agreement.

6. Pack sensibly

WWOOFers have been known to get off the bus in heels or bright white, brand new trainers. Host are likely to be living a much more out-doors lifestyle than you’re used to, and there will probably be mud / compost / manure involved in your activities. Be warned, your new trainers will not stay white for very long! Take into account the season and the weather and think warm, practical work clothes, waterproof coat, boots, hats and gloves, headlamp, wash-kit, and spending money. Sometimes the luggage bags with small wheels, so well adapted to city streets, are awkward and uncooperative on bumpy countryside tracks. If you have the choice, you might find a rucksack is more suitable.

7. Take with you the things you can’t live without

Do you love a glass of wine in the evening? Need to have to have real coffee rather than instant? Can you not possibly survive without chocolate? Unless you’ve checked beforehand, remember your host might not provide your favourite creature comforts so either take them with you, or be prepared to do without. Any regular or emergency medication is a must (e.g. asthma inhalers, hay fever tablets, EpiPens)

8. Good Communication on the Farm

While you are staying with a host, if you don’t understand something, ask. It’s much better to check, than to weed out the wrong seedlings (which really does happen!) And do tell your host if your experience isn’t matching your expectations. Most hosts are very reasonable people and want happy WWOOFers. Honest in-the-moment feedback gives them a chance to change something while you’re there, rather than staying quiet, having a bad time and writing a letter of complaint afterwards. After you stay, provide reasonable and honest online feedback for your host, so that future volunteers can see what kind of experience you’ve had with your host.

9. Spare time

Many hosts offer bicycles for exploring, maps for walking, and suggestions for local trails to discover, but you may like to think about bringing some of your own spare time entertainment. Art and craft projects, the book you’ve been meaning to read (or write) for ages and your own laptop or tablet are all good candidates. It bears repeating though; if good internet and phone coverage is important to you, be sure to clarify how strong the signal is where you’re going, and for your particular mobile network.

10. Be prepared to experience a different way of life

Remember, you will be in someone else’s home and you should be prepared to live by their (reasonable) house rules and culture. If you’re used to living in a tidy shoes-off flat with a beige carpet, it’s entirely likely your host’s home will be more ‘earthy’ than yours. That doesn’t make it wrong or necessarily unhygienic, it’s just a symptom of a more land-based lifestyle. You may be used to taking a long bath or shower each day, and this simply may not be possible with your hosts if there are hot water constraints. Be open to a new way of life!


And finally ….have fun!! Be flexible, go with an open heart and mind. You never know what other magical things might happen. WWOOF is about more than farming, and other opportunities and learnings may present themselves as you live alongside new people. Be ready to dive in.

SOURCE: indiefarmer.com

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