a VirtualTourist member from Brookings
I recently read about WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and it looks like an absolutely fascinating (and inexpensive) way to travel. (Note: they have opportunities all over the world, not just in Europe). Has anyone here worked at one of these organic farms before? If so, where was it and how was the experience? I'm not looking for anything in the short term, but in the long-term I think there could really be some unique experiences with WWOOF.
It is important to note, that in many EU countries, WOOFFing is illegal without proper work papers. Many farms will still take non-legal workers. I won't go into the morality or consequences if you get caught.
How do you figure out which offers are legal and which are not?
It's tough to find info without looking deeply into EU and individual country immigration laws. As WWOOFing is in the business of selling memberships, they are rather vague on any of their websites. They tend to elude to it, but then say "Do your own research!"
As an example, one of the conditions for non-EU citizens to volunteer in Scotland is "they should be working with people rather than doing purely clerical, administrative or maintenance work" otherwise a work permit is required. WWOOFing would not qualify for this exemption. Therefore, WWOOFing would be illegal for non-EU passports in Scotland.
Many WWOOFing hosts are unclear about the legalities in their own countries. As such, they will host WWOOFers without a full understanding of the law. This could get both the host and the "worker" in serious trouble.
I can tell you that in Australia there are plenty of places. I haven't done it myself, but my friends have done it more than once and really enjoy it. They live in Queensland, but even so, enjoy going somewhere different and working for their free accommodation. They said you are left time for yourself to do some sightseeing. Places in Oz often are away from the coastal areas.
I used to do quite a lot of farm work in my younger years. Never did it through WWOOF but i have had them recommended by many. If you look in to their website then you will often find that each individual farmer is quite good at explaining what they expect from a volunteer both work wise and visa wise, but finding a place should not be a problem as long as you are not stuck with one country you wanna go. The farmers generally have quite a lot of volunteers every year so they are used to dealing with the procedures and know what is possible and not. I stayed overnight at a farm in Laos once that took in WWOOF'ers and the volunteers i met there thought it was a really good experience.
Good to know about the Europe legality issues with WWOOF. I was really interested in a few of the US locations and South American ones, but I thought the Europe ones in say, Hungary, would be really interesting. I'll have to look into the laws before planning any trips in the future of course.