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Working on the compost toilet. All photos courtesy of author.

Exposure to organic farming techniques, harvesting potatoes, fixing farm fences, milking goats, and feeding chickens were WWOOFing experiences we had mentally prepared for.

The compost toilet, however, was not.

Together we studied the Humanure Compost Toilet Manual. It read, “There are two types of people in this world. Those that sh*t in their drinking water and those that don’t.”

We were about to experience how the other half lived.

The toilet was a yellow bucket with sawdust, placed under a wooden toilet seat frame. For 10 days we followed a routine of eat-excrete-sawdust-repeat. We bonded each time we had to collect another wheelbarrow load of sawdust or shovel the contents of the toilet bucket onto the humanure compost heap.

As a city girl travelling with my farm girl friend, the compost toilet was the source of many discussions as we sat around in our mobile home after a day’s work. And while no television, mobile coverage or WiFi will do that to a girl, the compost toilet was the first of many opportunities WWOOFing in Ireland provided to learn about healthy, sustainable living.

“The compost toilet was the first of many opportunities WWOOFing in Ireland provided to learn about healthy, sustainable living.”

There were other lessons we learned about life in rural Ireland. Our involvement in local life included set-dancing lessons, trad music sessions, and a community harvest supper, all of which allowed us to share and exchange ideas with those interested in the organic movement and alternative lifestyles.

After three months of research and trip planning, I spent seven weeks in 2009 WWOOFing around Ireland with a friend. Following are my favorite places and suggested WWOOFing stays.

To view the full contact details for WWOOF hosts you will need to become a subscribing member of WWOOF Ireland.

1. Kinramer, Rathlin Island, County Antrim

Located on an offshore island, the owners of Kinramer keep a beef suckler herd and a sheep flock. WWOOFing with this family you will experience island activities involving wildlife conservation, community events, and fishing; the seafood is plentiful.

WWOOFers may stay in a caravan, dorm, tent, or house. The hosts describe “adaptability and patience” as key requirements, as work is dependent on tides and weather. Rathlin Island is a small community of approximately 100; therefore, services are limited and WWOOFers need to come prepared.

2. Green Hill Farm, County Donegal

Back on the mainland, Green Hill Farm is a small organic holding situated in the north of Ireland. Owners John and Mary grow their own vegetables, which are sold locally at markets, and they are keen to educate others on organic farming.

WWOOFers are welcomed from June to August. Accommodation is provided in a caravan/mobile home, and stays of two weeks are preferred. Bikes are available for volunteers to explore the area. WWOOFer feedback sings their praises as “There’s no end to the charm on Green Hill Farm.”

3. Beechlawn Organic Farm, County Galway

For those looking for a longer term WWOOFing position, Beechlawn Organic Farm provides placements for a minimum of four weeks. This young family welcomes help all year round, especially from those with experience in horticulture or market stalls.

WWOOFing here includes everything from sowing to harvesting – expect to work 8 hours per day. In your time off, hosts can provide you with bikes and travel information on Ireland.

4. Ard Nahoo Eco Retreat, County Leitrim

Accommodation at Ard Nahoo is in a self-contained mobile home and there is no television or Internet access. Work for WWOOFers varies; on our stay, we prepared for a weekend retreat by cleaning and restocking guest cabins. Other tasks include picking fruit, harvesting potatoes, weeding, and composting.

Spend your free time exploring the surrounding Sligo Way and Creevelea Abbey; bikes and walking maps are available to borrow. WWOOFers should embrace the idea of a compost toilet because holding on for the 40 minute walk to the pub each night is tough!

Basic breakfast and lunch supplies are provided, and communal family dinners are served each evening. The kids are eager to help you brush up on your Gaelic.

5. Snee Farm, County Sligo

At the foot of the Ox Mountains lies Snee Farm. There are a range of animals on this small holding, but they specialize in pigs and bees.

The fruit of our efforts.

This host takes a hands-on approach, explaining “We grow our own vegetables, cut our own turf… kill our own animals.” Snee doesn’t cater to vegetarians, but that’s not surprising for a pig farm. They make their own wine and during the winter, make cheese and butter.

A normal work day is described as “hectic” and these busy farm folk request that once you’ve registered as a WWOOFer, you contact them by email or phone directly.

6. Moyleabbey Organic Farm, County Kildare

Work on the 13.5 acres began in 2003 and Moyleabbey reached certified organic status in 2006.

This family-run organic fruit farm is managed by Liam and Yuki, who will educate WWOOFers about macrobiotic lifestyles and bio-dynamic farming. They sell most of their produce direct but also sell at farmers’ markets, restaurants, and with other organic growers locally.

The diverse nature of the work here allows the hosts to open their doors to WWOOFers all year round. Accommodation is provided in a self-contained mobile home. Minimum stay is one month.

7. Carraig Dúlra, County Wicklow

Carraig Dúlra is a farm situated on the east coast of Ireland run by experienced WWOOFers Mike and Suzie. Volunteers assist with courses and events, organic growing, beekeeping, farm projects, and water systems.

Accommodation is in a campsite, with vegetarian meals provided. There is no electricity or hot water. WWOOFers will need to boil water for their washing, dishes, and laundry, as the hosts emphasize establishing a “connection with the natural world.”

8. Mill Little Farm, County Cork

If you want to immerse yourself in Irish culture, head to Mill Little in West Cork. During our stay, we participated in excursions that saw us set-dancing with locals, listening to trad music sessions, and meditating at a Buddhist center on the rugged Beara Peninsula.

Christine & Sheeba.

Host Christine will have you helping with veggie and flower beds, goats and poultry while she runs her English classes over the summer. WWOOFing accommodation is provided in clean, bright rooms in a house, and meals are cooked communally using the fresh produce from Mill Little.

9. Milbeg Arts, County Cork

This 250 year old farm house is situated on five acres, comprising woodland and a veggie garden. Milbeg’s host, Annie, is also an administrator of WWOOF Ireland.

Farming methods used here include crop rotation, bio-dynamic permaculture, and raised beds. WWOOFers stay in caravans. One WWOOFer noted that WWOOFers not only eat well here, but “most nights there’s a group of people gathered around to chat, take a hike up Priest’s Leap, or maybe hitch down to a pub.”

10. Peter and Amanda’s Place, County Cork

Peter and Amanda’s Place is a two acre site with polytunnels, raised beds, ponds, and gardens. They prefer stays of two weeks and volunteers all comment on being welcomed as a member of their family.

Working in the polytunnel.

Work here over summer to meet other WWOOFers and experience the beautiful Sheep’s Head Peninsula. Places are limited, so check their online calendar for availability.

Before You Go

Getting registered: Check visa and entry requirements; then, apply online at WWOOF Ireland.

Getting insurance: A special insurance policy for WWOOFers is available through OV Europa.

Getting around: Traveling around Ireland by bus and train will not only benefit the environment, but your travel budget, too. See Bus Eireann and Irish Rail (Iarnrod Eireann) for the Republic of Ireland, and Translink and NI Railways for Northern Ireland.

Community Connection:

If it’s your first time WWOOFing, be sure to check out “A First-Timer’s Guide to WWOOFing,” one of the many articles in our Volunteering Abroad Focus Page.

Volunteer + WorkWwoofing


 

About The Author

Rebecca Kinsella

After two years overseas discovering Irish family and foreign cultures, Rebecca has returned home to Melbourne. Find her on her blog at The Distance to Here or on Twitter @RebeccaKinsella.

  • Matt

    Hey Rebecca

    Cracking article was a great read and sounds like you have had some wonderful experiences! Keep up the good work hope to read more articles from you soon

    Cheers

  • http://www.expatheather.com Heather Carreiro

    I’ll be honest, this is first time I’ve even heard of WWOOFing so this article was quite enlightening. I like how you’ve including enough description and details that readers could sign up for WWOOFing in Ireland right away if they wanted to. The toilet part is a great lead in, as all travelers can relate to dealing with less than ideal toilets!

  • Kaylene Moran

    What a refreshing, fantastic and informative read.
    Definitely makes me want to escape the doldrums of everyday life for the adventure of WWOOFing, minus the compost toilet thanks!

  • http://www.maryandseansadventuresabroad.blogspot.com Mary R

    Rebecca,
    It looks like a great experience!

    I’m in Okinawa, Japan and I have looked into doing the same here. It sounds like a wonderful organization.

    How long did you spend at each farm?

  • Brian

    Great article Rebecca. Both entertaining and informative.

    I hadn’t heard of WWOOFING before, so I showed the article to some people at work who are I know are travelling around Ireland this year. Your article got them quite excited about WWOOFING, so much so, they’re replanning their holiday around it!!

    Great work and I hope to read more of your adventures in the future.

  • Patricia

    What a great article. Never heard of WWOOFing and it sounds like a great program. What a brilliant way to travel and experience Ireland.

    No mention of the GFC or the recession, a real plus!

  • Cathie Thomas

    Well I learn something every day Rebecca! Your journals have entertained and educated, well done!

    I am now a lot more aware of WWOOFing and sustainable living. You have inspired me to plant a winter veggie crop. My herb garden fed the snails this year but I am again encouraged to try my luck once more!

    Take care and keep up the writing I thinks its brilliant!

    Best wishes Cathie (Frankston, Victoria, Australia)

  • http://ourhikingblog.com.au/ Frank – Our Hiking Blog

    Great post Rebecca,
    Love the whole WOOFing concept. Both my daughters have had some great experiences. Clare, the eldest WOOFed with a blind guy called Ed on a goat farm on a island , off Ireland . Can’t remember it’s name but she had a fantastic time! (think he might have retired now)
    Keep up the great blogging

  • Rebecca

    Thanks Mary! I spent approximately 1 to 2 weeks on each farm but I planned my travel around the minimum WWOOFing stays and dates required by the hosts.

    Here is a link for WWOOF Japan: http://www.wwoofjapan.com/ Good Luck!

  • Rebecca

    Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

    Brian – thanks for sharing the article :)

    Patricia – good point, WWOOFing is an excellent way to travel on a budget or find (voluntary) work during the recession.

    Cathie – thanks for your lovely comments and good luck with your veggies and herbs!

    Frank – great to hear your daughters enjoyed their WWOOFing trips – there are some really inspirational and hard-working hosts out there! I checked out your blog and there are some great pics of Tasmania. I hiked through the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland, another very beautiful part of the world.

  • http://www.daylightsburning.wordpress.com Kelly

    This is the first time I really grasped what a WWOOFing experience entails; what a wonderful new way to travel! Thanks for sharing all the links and I, like Heather, loved the lead in about the toilets!

  • Cindy

    This is a great article! Like many others, I had no idea what WWOOFing was (to be honest, I first thought of it as something related to dogs!) but this article has been very informative. Really liked how you started off with your own experiences!

  • http://www.expatheather.com Heather Carreiro

    You’ve inspired me and my husband to join WWOOF USA! We’re planning on doing some WWOOFing this summer.

    • http://rebeccakinsella.wordpress.com/ Rebecca

      Nice one! You’ll have to let me know where you guys choose to go – it could be the next article ;)

  • http://www.expatheather.com Heather Carreiro

    We probably won’t do it until June since our spring breaks don’t coincide this year, but we’ve been wanting to learn more about organic farming/sustainable living for a while. Being outside the US and without good internet connection for three years, I was completely out of the loop about WWOOFing until reading your article. It’s so funny cause a few days after reading it, my husband (who didn’t read it) was like, “Hey wouldn’t it be great to go to some farm where they use compost toilets and do organic gardening so we could learn about it?”

  • http://sweetasgreenapples.wordpress.com Marieke

    Great article! I was at Peter & Amanda almost two years ago and had a fantastic time! Great food, great location, great people.

  • http://http//personalbabelred.com/luswata luswata umaru ahmed

    so gorgeous

  • Pingback: 75 Best Irish-Interest Articles and Posts of 2010 | Irish Fireside

  • Brooke Mcgillen

    How do I sign up for wwoofing?? I am really interested!!

  • http://www.hourpaydayloans.co.uk Frank Polenose

    Great opportunities for many – we need more things like this!

  • Sarah E

    Did you find that most were wanting help from June- August in the summer months, or where there plenty of farms needing help in the winter? Thanks for the write-up!

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