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Everything You Need to Know About WWOOFing in New Zealand

Luke Wing

A top work and travel experience in NEw Zealand!

Almost every backpacker and working holidaymaker gets involved with WWOOFing at some point in their time in New Zealand. It is a great way to discover the wonderful countryside.

WWOOFing properties thrive with the help of travellers maintaining the organic way of life, while offering a cultural exchange, great food and great hospitality! From Northland all the way down to Southland, over 1300 hosts open their doors to travellers to come and stay between 2-6 weeks, or even longer.

Luke Wing, a young working holidaymaker and an aspiring writer from the UK, gives BackpackerGuide.NZ his take on WWOOFing in New Zealand.

[Update] You must have a work visa in order to WWOOF in New Zealand, as working in exchange for food and accommodation is considered as work by Immigration NZ.

What do travellers get out of WWOOFing?

  • WWOOFing provides travellers with a break from spending money and being constantly on the move.
  • They can learn firsthand about organic growing – skills they can take away and keep forever.
  • It brings travellers from an urban background to experience rural life.
  • It improves communication between the organic community.
  • They get to meet interesting people.
Working Holiday Insurance

Luke Wing

A quick history of WWOOF

Originally called “Working Weekends on Organic Farms”, the organisation kicked off in autumn 1971 when Sue Coppard, a secretary living and working in London, realised the need for education into organic living, especially for those who did not have the opportunity to support an organic way of life. After successfully organising a weekend of working at a biodynamic farm with four friends, the WWOOFing ball started rolling.

As demand grew for volunteer workers helping out for extended periods of time, the name changed to “Willing Workers on Organic Farms”. However, in some regions this attracted illegal migrant working groups to which WWOOF did not want to be affiliated with. Ultimately, the organisation had to change its name again in 2000 to “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms”. And here we are: WWOOF!

There is now more than 50 WWOOF organisations worldwide… and counting…

Luke Wing

What is it like to be a volunteer?

As a volunteer you are expected to join in with the day-to-day jobs on the property or farm. In exchange for your labour, which ranges between four and six hours per day, you are rewarded with a full day’s food, accommodation and an education into a cleaner greener way of living.

The type of work you are offered is built around creating an organic and green living environment, from the food you eat to the building you live in. Sometimes, even the power that is generated.

Of course, not all WWOOFing hosts will live entirely organically but this is the ideology of the WWOOFing community that you as a volunteer help to achieve. Jobs such as weeding, wood chopping, composting, animal care, cheese making, babysitting, cooking and building are quite common. Those tasks teach you basic farm skills, as well as learning how to sustain energy and food for yourself, your WWOOFing hosts, and their family.

“Hosts” are the people who own and run the property you volunteer on. They look after you and work alongside you during your stay. Plus, they keep you well fed and provide you with accommodation, which can either be in a house, a caravan, or even a tent whilst staying with them. Make sure to read the description of the living conditions on their profile so you know what you are getting into!

The great thing about WWOOFing is there are no built in contracts. You can stay as long as the host will allow you to and leave when you like – there are no commitments. An average time to stay will be between two and six weeks.

Luke Wing

The average day of a WWOOFer

You will never stay in bed past mid-morning to make sure those farm duties are out of the way. Generally, the breakfasts are big and yummy so get stuck in! Once well fed, it is time to get your four hours (or so) of work done.

Some common WWOOFing tasks include:

  • Chopping wood
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Mulching the garden beds
  • Planting and pruning and picking fruit
  • Making bread
  • Working in your host’s fruit and veg store or market stand
  • Building and maintaining an environmentally friendly energy source
  • Making compost

You will often finish your chores early, since you started early, so work days feel short. You will then be free to enjoy the property. Relax in a hammock with a good book, take the car to some nearby sights, go horse riding, write your blog, plan your next trip… It is up to you!

Around 6pm everybody will gather for a great homemade dinner and then relax family-style. If you are a night owl and like to stay up super late, be mindful that farmers need their rest after a days’ demanding work, so try to be respectful.

Luke Wing

A word of advice

Although the vast majority of hosts are truly awesome people and will be a blast to live and work with, some WWOOFing hosts do not apply organic learning and living to your experience. However, this isn’t always bad, as I have volunteered for hosts like this and found that it can be a more chilled experience without the education into an organic lifestyle.

On the other hand, some hosts can also work you silly, so bear in mind, as a WWOOFing volunteer, you are not obliged to keep working if the host is going outside the boundaries of what the organisation stands for. In this incidence, you should report the experience to the organisation and simply leave the property, there is always a great hostel nearby.

Why is WWOOFing so popular in New Zealand?

The rewards are great when WWOOFing: friendships are made, lessons are learnt, and memories are branded in travellers’ minds. As a backpacker, this is a chance to recharge and get out of the lifestyle of eating noodles and sleeping in packed dorms. Instead, you’ll meet local country men, women and families. With them, you’ll create an experience that lasts a lifetime, even the simple things like chatting long into the night and feasting in a way you may have never done before! It will leave you recharged and ready to continue on your journey enlightened.

How to get started

Make sure you have a work visa. (Check out How to get a working holiday visa?)

To sign up to WWOOFing and browse the host database, simply set up an account on the WWOOF NZ website.

The membership fee for volunteers (up to two people per membership) is NZ$40 for the first 14 months then NZ$20 to renew for another year.

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