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Photo: Sam Ruaat

WWOOFing is a great way to combine travel with hands-on learning that’s not only good for the environment, but easy on your budget too.

In exchange for a few hours of unpaid help per day, WWOOFers are offered free accommodation and meals at organic projects around the world. It’s no lazy holiday however, and WWOOF volunteers can be found doing any number of chores from harvesting rice, to building mud brick ovens, to tromping through duck ponds.

“It’s an opportunity to exchange knowledge and learn from others,” says Lesley from Baan Wasunthara Organic Farm in Chiang Mai. “We enjoy getting to know the travelers who stay with us and the extra help on the farm is a great benefit for us too!”

Many hosts live a sustainable lifestyle that is a source of inspiration for travelers who learn first hand the art of crafts, food production, and farm maintenance.

Currently, there are 15 WWOOF opportunities in Thailand, ranging from small, family run gardens to full-fledged organic farming operations that ship their produce throughout Asia. Because the country does not have its own WWOOF organization, all volunteers are required to sign up with WWOOF Independents.

A one-year membership costs about $30 USD, and you’ll have access to a list of WWOOFing opportunities in over 20 countries. This list is updated regularly, but because many of the farms have been participating in the WWOOF program for a couple of years it doesn’t change frequently. 

Once you join WWOOF, you’ll have access to the contact information for each of the farms and their specific requirements. And yes, there are lots of WWOOF lists being circulated on the web, but there is a formal process for applying to a farm that requires membership, so buck up and pay the fee, and help to keep this great organization going.

The majority of WWOOF hosts are located in northern Thailand and offer stunning scenery, lots of opportunities for trekking and exploring, and colorful local culture. When choosing a farm, make sure to do some research, ask lots of questions so you know exactly what you’re getting into, and try to build a bit of a relationship with your host before your arrival.

Here’s a sampling of a few of the great farms that Thailand has to offer.

Big House Organic Farm

Big House Organic Farm offers travelers a quiet setting in rural north eastern Thailand where the focus is on sustainable living, meditation, and yoga. There is no electricity, TV, fridge, or radio, so if it’s chilled-out, back-to-the basics you’re looking for, Big House is just the place.

Work projects include mud brick building, rice planting and harvesting, building a bicycle grain grinder, and solar cooking and baking. The owners have extensive knowledge about sustainable living and anyone looking to incorporate eco-friendly practices into their lifestyle could stand to learn a few things from them. 

Lungkahms Jungle Homestay and Farm

A small organic farm located just outside of Chiang Mai, they also run Siam River Tours from the property. This place has a young, backpacker vibe and the restrictions on smoking and alcohol are fairly lax here, but they do still expect a hard day’s work in exchange for room and board.

The location is one of the highlights of this farm since it’s smack dab in the center of national parks, vibrant hill tribe cultures, and tons of outdoor adventure sports. Rafting, kayaking, and jungle canopy tours are offered daily and are something to look forward to during down time. The hosts do request three weeks’ notice, so plan ahead. 

Santipap Gardens

Santipap Gardens is a family-run organic farm and learning center located in northeastern Thailand on the shores of Ubanratan Dam Lake.

Aside from the standard vegetable garden and tropical fruit trees, hosts Richard and Pongpen have developed an impressive number of courses for interested guests. Shampoo and dish soap making, Thai cooking lessons, earthen house building, and Thai massage are just a few skills travelers can learn during their stay.

Accommodations are basic and the hosts expect hard work, but if you’re looking for an experience in a rural Thai village, this is a good one to consider. They also allow children and being located in a traditional Thai village makes this farm a family-friendly option. 

The Panya Project

Photo: travlinman43

The Panya Project is an hour north of Chiang Mai, lost in a complex network of dirt roads, paddy fields, and canals. This 10 acre site is home to one of southeast Asia’s most comprehensive sustainable living communities.

With the help of grant money, the people behind Panya Project have worked since 2006 to turn a mango plantation into a self-sufficient permaculture center, complete with composting toilet systems, water harvesting, seed saving, and an education center.

During the dry months (November-May), work focuses on building earthen structures, teaching courses at the education center, and harvesting from the vegetable garden. June-October bring lots of rain, which is ideal for planting and mulching. Visitors are asked to stay a minimum of two weeks. 

Phrao Organic Farm

Located in the village of Ampur Phrao about 100 kilometers north of Chiang Mai, this small, certified organic orchard sells its high-quality fruit throughout Thailand. The farm is surrounded by mountains and is only three kilometers from town.

The owners are enthusiastic about ecotourism and are involved with social improvement projects with local local hill tribes and conservation at Chiang Dao National Park, so there is ample opportunity for cultural exchange, trekking, and exploring.

With more than 1,000 fruit trees, workers can expect to do quite a bit of harvesting, but with endless supply of guava, jack fruit, papaya, dragon fruit, and bananas to munch on throughout the day, a little hard work is a small price to pay. The only restriction is no alcohol or smoking.

Community Connection:

Learn more about Thailand by visiting Matador’s Travel Southeast Asia Focus Page.

Volunteer + WorkWwoofing


 

About The Author

Dona Francis

Dona Francis is a 20-something freelance writer and photographer who dreams of a year-round flip flop tan, a never ending supply of mangoes, and long bus rides down dusty roads. Riding bikes, climbing stuff, and getting lost are a few of the things that make her giddy. Join in her adventure at Wandering Dona or @wanderingdona.

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

    Awesome info! If I’m every back in Thailand I would love to check out these farms.

  • http://allenburt.org Allen

    Great article.

    I had the opportunity to work at the Panya project for a brief period of time, as well as take a thai cooking class there.

    I was there this time last year. It was amazing! Highly recommend it.

  • http://www.worthycauseapparel.com Richard Riley

    Great list! I’ve seen similar lists for Australia and New Zealand but this is the first one I’ve seen for Thailand. I’m hopefully going to be travelling in Thailand within the year, I’ll definitely have to see about volunteering with some of these places….especially to cut down on costs and to experience something most people don’t even know exists.

  • http://milesofabbie.com Abbie

    Great info – thanks Dona! Hopefully I’ll go back to Thailand someday and take advantage of one of these opportunities!

  • http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com Bobbi Hitchon

    Great post. Never thought of WWOOFing in Thailand. The photos make me want to go now!

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  • Robert Sciberras

    Heeellllllllooooooo:):)

    This is what I need for the moment, nature, mountains and rivers. I need to escap from Bangkok and start to do some work, as I’ve been out of work for long time now. I joined WWOOF in Nepal last year so I believe I still have the subscription still active as its been less than 1 year. Please can you send me the contacts of these farms, so I can start enjoying a rural life…..

    Thanks for your info

  • http://www.volunteerworkthailand.org Stephen

    Great post. I will add a few of these organizations to the Volunteer Work Thailand website – a free guide to low cost volunteering opportunities throughout Thailand.

  • http://www.ryanlibre.com ryan libre

    Hello,

    nice article,

    The Panya Project is a very nice place, however it is not on the WWOOF list as you have to pay to volunteer there. Im there neighbor and have a WWOOF farm, Baan Rung Nok http://baanrungnok.blogspot.com/
    it is on the WWOOF list, but you can just mail us directly without paying to sign up.

  • Tanna Tucker

    Great article! Where can I find more info on Big House Farm?

  • Howard Story

    Google WWOOFThailand com to book your hosts and begin the adventure and WWOOF Thailand on Facebook for information.

  • WWOOF Thailand

    For information on WWOOF hosts in Thailand you can check out w.WWOOFThailand.com and book your adventure.

    • Howard Story
    • Howard Story

      Book your WWOOF adventure here

    • স্মৃতিলেখা চক্রবর্ত্তী

      Wow! That’s great. Would love to go WWOOF-ing in Thailand.

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