Questions to Ask a WWOOF Host
WWOOFing can be something of a balancing act. You, the traveler, are living in a farmer’s house, eating their food, using their resources, in exchange for a few hours a day of work. If you’re not careful, you can end up taking advantage of your host, or being taken advantage of. It is, however, avoidable.
Due to the nature of WWOOFing, it’s extremely important for WWOOFers to be on the same page as their hosts. Most people seem to have experiences that range from okay to amazing, but those that don’t often point toward poor communication or misunderstandings as the cause of their problems. While being clear about where you stand won’t necessarily make your WWOOFing experience fail-proof, it can go a long way toward smoothing things out. While farmers can lie when responding to potential workers, it’s uncommon, and asking a lot of questions will help you get a better sense of what your experience might be like with a particular host. If something feels off, move on to someone else.
As someone who had both an amazing experience and a terrible one, here are the questions I would recommend that all prospective WWOOFers ask their hosts, along with my explanations as to why:
What hours will I be expected to work?
This one is possibly the most important. The WWOOF contract states that WWOOFers are to work no more than 5 hours a day. Now, it’s to be expected that there may be some slight variation in this on a day to day basis, but if you’re going to regularly work more than an average of 5 hours a day, you should find another farm. Some farmers do exploit their WWOOFers, and if you’re not careful you may find yourself pulling 12 hour days digging trenches, like I did.
What sort of work will I be doing? (harvesting, animal care, construction, etc)
Just because their farm description mentions cute llamas doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be working with them. The chestnut farm I went to work on didn’t have chestnuts at the moment, so I worked in the vegetable garden. The sheep farm I worked on had recently sold all its sheep in exchange for cows. Make sure to find out what you’ll be doing.
What accommodation is available?
The accommodation in WWOOFing can range from your own house, to a caravan, to a tent in the fields. Find out what your accommodation will be, and if it’s in a second building, be sure to ask about electricity, water, and access to a bathroom. I loved my little 16th century peasant house in St. Etienne de Serre, but the fact that there was no bathroom meant that after the family went to bed in the big, main house, I was SOL if I needed to use the restroom in the middle of the night.
Which meals are provided and are meals had together?
Some hosts will cook grand, 3-course meals while others will just leave you some scraps in the fridge. Find out what you can expect food-wise, and also find out if you’re allowed to cook for yourself at all, if that’s important to you.
Will I have weekends free?
The two farms I WWOOFed on only gave me Sunday off, and I’ve heard that the 6-day week is pretty standard on many farms. Some farms will have you work 5 days, some 6, and some will have you work every day that you’re there. I personally would never take a position that required me to work every day without respite, but that’s just me.
What is there to see in the area?
Some farms are close to villages while others are extremely remote. Since you’ll only be working for part of the day, you’ll have a lot of time to yourself, so ask what there is to do. There may be trails to hike, a river to swim in, or ruins to explore if you’re not close to a town. Here in France both of my host farms strongly encouraged me to hitchhike around the area, which I have done very sparingly.
Is internet available for WWOOFers to use?
This can be a touchy subject on some farms. Most farmers don’t want their WWOOFers to spend all day on the internet, even if they have a laptop with them. Ask if internet is available, and if you plan to use it a lot (if, say, you’re a blogger), be sure to ask if it’s okay to use it for more than an hour a day.
Will there be other WWOOFers on the farm?
If you want to meet other WWOOFers, working on a large vineyard during the harvest is going to be much better than working on a small family smallholding farm, where you will likely be the only worker. On the other hand, if you want peace and quiet, a smaller farm without other WWOOFers might be more to your liking.
I’m a (vegetarian/vegan/omnivore). Is that okay?
If you have any sort of dietary restrictions, ask about them asap. While many hosts are accommodating, some are not. If you have a dietary restriction that the farmers do not (say, you’re vegan and they’re big fans of bacon), you may want to ask if it’s alright to prepare your own food.
I hope these help. If you have any questions of your own that you would add, please let me know in the comments!