The twentieth century brought significant changes to our planet. Humanity increasingly relies on fossil fuels and chemicals to grow what nourishes us: our food. At the same time, the world has become an urbanized place. More than half of the world’s people now live in urban areas (UNFPA, 2007). We have become disconnected from nature and natural processes. However, there is a new awareness of how to live in balance with the earth cropping up across the globe. Sustainability has become a way of life. There are now many organizations dedicated to promoting sustainable practises. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is one of these organizations.
WWOOF is an international volunteer exchange network advancing organic and sustainable agriculture. It seeks to match hosts with farms, gardens, and other smallholdings with volunteer labour. In exchange for fair labour (usually 4-6 hours per day), the volunteer (or WWOOFer) is provided with shelter, food, and any other necessities during their stay. WWOOF has become a popular way to travel cheaply while regaining connections to the countryside. The organization allows members to advance their knowledge of traditional farming techniques, while establishing new friendships, experiencing new cultures, and most importantly, living sustainably.
Origins and Background
Like many organizations, WWOOF had humble beginnings. Sue Coppard (see Figure 1), a London resident, created “Working Weekends on Organic Farms” in the fall of 1971 (WWOOF, The History of WWOOF, 2013). The idea for an organization stemmed from her desire to support the burgeoning, organic agriculture movement. However, she had limited means and found there were few opportunities to go to the countryside (WWOOF, The History of WWOOF, 2013). She recognized that many people wanted to support organic farming but were in a similar situation, so she set up a trial ‘working weekend’ for four people. Armed with farm contacts through the Soil Association, Coppard and three other Londoners embarked on their first working weekend at a Sussex organic farm (WWOOF, The History of WWOOF, 2013). The weekend was so successful that the team made regular trips every third weekend of the month (WWOOF-UK, 2013). News gradually spread of “Sue Coppard’s land army” with many other organic farmers and small landholders wishing to exchange room and board for willing volunteers (WWOOF-UK, 2013). The organization quickly underwent exponential growth.
The international organization has had several name changes since its inception, although the acronym has stayed the same. Farms began to request volunteers for longer periods of time than just a weekend, which resulted in a name change to ‘Willing Workers on Organic Farms’ (Maycock, 2008). As WWOOF began to grow beyond the UK, the name changed again to ‘World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.’ This name change occurred for two reasons. First, the network desired a name to reflect its truly global...