WWOOF brings students to farms across the globe

Using Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), students can go abroad while also getting some firsthand farming experience.

According to Adriane Elliott, coordinator for CSU’s organic agriculture program, the international program helps farmers host students so that they can get a feel of what it’s like to work on a farm.

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“The volunteers learn from everyday farm practices by falling into the rhythm of the farm,” Elliott said. “That can include milking, weeding, planting and other common farming activities.”

WWOOF keeps a record book of farms across the globe that are looking to host student workers, said Elliot. In order to select a farm, students must pay a fee to see the farm directory. Once a farm is selected, students are then in charge of contacting the farm and setting up travel arrangements.

Soil and crop majors can benefit greatly from working with WWOOF-sponsored farms because the work counts for internship credits, a requirement for the major. One student, junior Elliot Demos, first heard about the program through his girlfriend.

“She worked on farms in Hawaii, New Zealand and also here in the states using WWOOF,” Demos said.

After hearing about her experiences, Demos used WWOOF last summer to work at his girlfriend’s family’s farm in Missouri.

“I went during an off season, so instead of tending to crops we spent two weeks building a greenhouse using timber framing,” Demos said. “But even still, we were doing chores like breaking ice for the cows and such.”

Demos said that the farm used WWOOF to help find volunteers to work on the farm. The farmer gave online lectures about crop and soil techniques, which is not uncommon among WWOOF volunteers.

“The bigger farms hold large classroom lectures,” he said. “I would accompany the farmer and listen to everything he had to say. He also gave me some literature to read while I was there.”

Demos is planning a trip to South America for the summer with his girlfriend and he plans to use WWOOF to find farms the two of them can stay and work.

“We’re going to Ecuador, Peru and Chile for a three month trip,” he said. “The times we stay at each farm will vary depending on how long they asked for the volunteers to stay.”

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Kevin O’Connor, a sophomore photography major, plans to use WWOOF to find farms either in southern France or Italy when he travels next year.

“My older brother used WWOOF to work on a farm in Sevilla, Spain,” he said. “He built a small farm and rock wall for this old lady who paid him. Every night he would take some of the pocket change and go into town.”

Elliot estimates that about 3-5 CSU students use WWOOF each year.

“Several students each year voice an interest in working somewhere abroad and I always point them toward WWOOF,” she said.

Demos encouraged students outside of his major to get involved.

“Anyone can volunteer,” he said. “And it can help toward your degree. I’m using the time I spent in Missouri for credit in an independent study course.”

Senior Reporter Sean Meeds can be reached at news@collegian.com.