WWOOfing is a worldwide scheme to allow people to volunteer on an organic farm in return for accommodation and often food. WWOOfing in Zealand is an ideal opportunity for backpackers, and working holiday visa holders to experience working and living on organic farms, market gardens, sustainable living projects and community projects.
To participate in WOOFing you will be considered as working despite not actually getting money in return for your work so you must have a valid work permit or visa. You must join the WOOFing organisation before volunteering, and this will give you a list of active projects that you can select from. At this stage you’ll usually make contact with the relevant hosts to find your suitability to them (and just as importantly find their suitability to you!).
There are a whole host of WOOFing opportunities throughout New Zealand. Many participants will end up working at organic farms but there is a huge variety of projects from helping a family to build an eco-house to helping feed animals, planting or just helping out on a day to day basis.
When looking at potential hosts it’s important to consider what you want out of the experience. Are you studying a related course and want to get experience to boost your CV? Do you just want to see what it’s like living and working with an organic, sustainable lifestyle, or do you just want to help out in return for some lodging and potentially food? Would you rather stay with a small family, or hang out with a bunch of fellow travellers? It’s important to consider what you want, as much as what the hosts offer – they are opening up their homes, and often their businesses to you. Some tasks offered may be seen as mundane by some such as weeding and planting, whereas other hosts may have very specific requirements such as plumbers or carpenters.
It will help both you and the hosts if you are realistic in what you want out of the experience. We’ve heard of backpackers having some truly amazing experiences doing work they’d never otherwise have the opportunity of doing elsewhere, but we’ve also heard of the horror stories where they just haven’t got along with their hosts.
Remember to be considerate to your hosts as well – some will be inundated with applications so call ahead in advance to discuss availability.
To participate in WOOFing in New Zealand you must register either online, or at an appropriate office of location. Some of the bigger hostels such as Base may have job desks where you can register on the spot and get a book detailing the opportunities available, or you may join online if you are on the road. The WOOFing website will have the most up to date placements available.
Registration costs are (as at October 2010) $40 doing an online application, or $50 if you receive a printed booklet.
At this stage its then up to you to approach hosts you are interested in and take it from there.
As you can imagine with such a variety of projects, there’s a variety of conditions as well. You may be put up in some luxury accommodation if you’re lucky, or you may be living in a rustic rural community. Expect to get a bit dirty during much of the work and take appropriate clothing. You may be out of mobile phone reception so if your parent like to give you a call every couple of days, or expect your blog to be updated daily, set their expectations so they don’t get too worried!
Working hours will depend on your project. Most placements will expect 4-6 hours of work a day, but some may allow you to stack up the work so you work extra hours some days in return for a free day to explore the area. If this is what you want to do, remember to check what the transport options are like if you are based in a rural area – if you have your own transport you’ll be able to get around easier but some placements may have very little or no public transport available.
You can get more information on WOOFing from the Woofing New Zealand website :