IN RESPONSE TO my question about how many hours a day the WWOOFers worked, the host replied, “We expect the WWOOFers to enjoy the work enough not to mind how many hours they work.”
A red flag should have begun waving itself madly, but all I could see was the cheese factory on site, the fact they made their own pasta, and the assortment of animals on the farm. I ended up working about 12 hours a day on that farm, but never with the cheese or the pasta.
After having good and bad experiences WWOOFing in four different countries, these are the questions I’ve learned to ask:
1. How many hours do I work each day?
The purpose of this question is to be prepared for the expectations of the farm. The answer also gives you a reference point for addressing concerns if you find a significant discrepancy once you’re at the farm.
Asking about days off is also a good idea. One guy arrived at a farm and thought he had every weekend off. He was unpleasantly surprised to learn this was not the case.
2. What kind of work will I be doing?
I always like to know there is a variety of work to be done. At one farm I never did the same thing twice; I faced new challenges like milking goats and making a basket out of willow.
At another farm I only did two things: herd goats and cut grass. Which one do you think I enjoyed most? This question is important because you can find out if the work will suit you physically and if the tasks offer the experiences and challenges what you want.
3. I only speak English. Does that matter?
In France, I WWOOFed at a host who had moved from England, so language was not a problem. In Italy, however, I encountered a few problems at two farms. The first host did not like speaking in English. Instead, the host spoke to the other WWOOFers who spoke Italian, never directing anything to me.
Their listing had indicated English was spoken, but it was a quiet and unsocial two weeks. At the second farm there was frequent miscommunication because the host spoke little English and was impatient with misunderstandings. Better to be clear from the start!
4. Do you allow WWOOFers to use the internet?
WWOOFers are often travelers who want to stay in touch with family and be able to make further travel arrangements. Yet I was surprised by the number of farms that were unhappy to let me send a quick email or look up a train schedule.
Some people are simply of an earlier generation, don’t use the internet themselves, and don’t see why you should. Others have had bad experiences of WWOOFers using their computers. Either way, if you plan to stay connected, it’s wise to ask about the host’s policy.
Make sure you leave for a host prepared; otherwise, unpleasant surprises might take away from what could be a rewarding experience.
Read some other practical tips in our First-Timer’s Guide to WWOOFing.