World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF, //), or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is a cultural exchange and hospitality service operated by a loose network of national organizations that facilitate homestays on organic farms. Australia with 2,600 hosts has the most host farms and enterprises, followed by New Zealand with 2,340 and United States with 2,052 hosts. The UK has 688 WWOOF hosts. In Asia WWOOF Thailand has 150 hosts. While there are WWOOF hosts in 110 countries around the world, no central list or organization encompasses all WWOOF hosts. As there is no single international WWOOF membership, all recognised WWOOF country organizations strive to maintain similar standards, and work together to promote the aims of WWOOF.
WWOOF aims to provide volunteers (often called "WWOOFers" or "woofers", //) with first-hand experience in organic, sustainable and ecologically sound growing methods, to help the organic movement; and to let volunteers experience life in a sustainable rural setting in a country of their choice. WWOOF volunteers generally do not receive money in exchange for service 4-5 hours of help each day. The host provides food, lodging, and opportunities to learn organic and sustainable lifestyles, in exchange for assistance with farming or gardening activities.
The duration of the visit can range from a few days, to weeks, months and even up to years. Workdays average four to six hours, and participants interact with WWOOFers from other countries. WWOOF farms include private small holdings, gardens, permaculture projects, allotments, and commercial farms. Farms become WWOOF hosts by enlisting/ registering with their national organization. In countries with no WWOOF organization, farms enlist with WWOOF Independents:
Examples of WWOOF experiences include harvesting cup gum honey from Ligurian bees at Island Beehive in Kangaroo Island, harvesting Syrah grapes for Knappstein Vineyard in the Clare Valley, harvesting rice in rice paddy of Thailand, harvesting coffee beans from coffea arabicas in Northern Thailand.
WWOOF originally stood for "Working Weekends On Organic Farms" and began in England in 1971. Sue Coppard, a woman working as a secretary in London, wanted to provide urban dwellers with access to the countryside, while supporting the organic movement. Her idea started with trial working weekends for four people at the biodynamic farm at Emerson College in Sussex.
People soon started volunteering for longer periods than just weekends, so the name was changed to Willing Workers On Organic Farms, but then the word "work" caused problems with some countries' labour laws and immigration authorities, who tended to confuse WWOOFers with migrant workers and oppose foreigners competing for local jobs. Both to eliminate that problem and also in recognition of WWOOFing's worldwide scope, the name was changed again in 2000 to World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Some WWOOF groups (such as Australia) choose to retain the older name, however.
Volunteers must first choose what country they would like to visit and volunteer in. They can sign up for their desired country on the WWOOF website of that country. After signing up volunteers will receive a list of farms located in their country of choice. From this point it is up to the volunteer to contact their desired farms and arrange the dates and duration of their stay. The duration of a volunteer's stay can range from days to months, but is typically one to two weeks. Volunteers can expect to work for 4–6 hours a day for a full day's food and accommodation. A volunteer could be asked to help with a variety of tasks, including: sowing seed, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, harvesting, packing, milking, feeding, fencing, making mud-bricks, wine making, cheese making and bread baking. WWOOF promotes participation as a way to experience first hand a local culture, customs, and nature through farming.
As of 2016[update], 61 countries have a national WWOOF organization. 8 of these are located in Africa, 12 in North and South America, 13 in Asia-Pacific, 26 in Europe and 2 in the Middle East. WWOOF Independents list hosts located in 53 other countries.