It is estimated that every year “travel and work” tourism attracts thousands of travellers, who want to not only see yet unknown to them regions, but also give their journey a unique meaning.
In European countries, for example, in France, Italy or Spain, volunteers have a wide offer of attractions to choose from: collecting grapes, goat rearing, working in an olive press-room or building an irrigation system. Many farms are also looking for people who, after proper training, will help plow the field or work in the barn. Volunteering can take from seven or eight hours of physical work or only a few hours, for example, if you decide to only help in everyday duties.
Iwona Kozłowiec, a traveller and organizer of expeditions, remembers the holidays on Australian farms that she enjoyed a few years ago: – It was a great opportunity to experience the daily life of breeders. On the “sheep farm” we helped in sheep-shearing and burning grass before the dry season. At the “cattle station” we bottle-fed small calves with milk and got to know the secrets of business, where a retired teacher with one permanent employee could manage a large-sized farm. It was a time full of excitement.
How does it work?
Many farms, especially those involved in alternative and ecological projects invite volunteers and in exchange for work offer them free food and accommodation. If you like to spend time outdoors, focus on physical activities and not mind getting your hands dirty while working with soil, then staying on a farm is a great way to get to know rural life around the world for a low cost. Typically, households require stays for at least one or two weeks, but it is best to negotiate the length of your visit directly with the hosts. Friendships are often formed, the result of which is cyclical cooperation (even at weekends) for the following years. There are also farms that are open to volunteers for the whole season.
Before you go
It is best to get the most information from the host regarding our stay at the very beginning. – It is good to check, for example, how many hours a day you should work – says Janek Chamiec, who stayed on several farms in France and Denmark. – It is worth taking a phrasebook with you, because not everywhere you will be able to communicate in English – recommends Janek, who today runs his own biodynamic farm near Wrocław.
How to find a farm?
Preferably through specialized organizations. The best known is World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF.net). The history of the association dates back to the beginning of the 1970s, when a group of people interested in biodynamic agriculture from London began to work in the countryside at weekends. Sue Coppard, the founder of the organization, described it as follows: “On Friday evening, three of us went by train from London with work clothing and sleeping bags, then spent a blissful weekend in a wonderful village, working hard pruning blackberries and clearing ditches, listening to birds singing, watching sunset and talking during meals.” Today, WWOOF operates in 140 countries on all continents. Eszter Matolcsi from the WWOOF office points out that the experience of such a trip is more than just working on a farm. – It’s a common life at an organic farm and learning the principles of organic agriculture. Actually, working for WWOOF is part of an environmental project, learning through experience – adds Eszter.
You can also look on your own. The author recently visited the environs of Szczecinek in Zachodniopomorskie voivodeship and came to a biodynamic farm operating in these areas. After establishing contact, everything worked out great! The author will spend this holiday as a volunteer there.