WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), which holds its roots in East Sussex, is a global exchange organisation which links volunteers with organic farms, smallholdings, gardens, woodlands and even vineyards. In exchange volunteers receive food, accommodation and learning on the land.
On the 15th October 1971, Sue Coppard and three other Londoners decided to arrange a trial weekend at Tablehurst Farm, Forest Row, East Sussex. They helped out with any work that needed doing on the biodynamic farm in exchange for food and accommodation, and Working Weekends on Organic Farms (WWOOF) was born. The weekend was so successful that it became a regular trip and news gradually spread of ‘Sue Coppard’s Land Army’, and other organic farms got in touch, all keen to offer their hospitality in exchange for help from willing volunteers.
Today, WWOOF is a global phenomenon with over 12,000 hosts in more than 100 countries, and 560 hosts in the UK, many of which are based in the South East. The WWOOF UK National Co-ordinator, Scarlett Penn, who also happens to live in East Sussex, explains the benefits of WWOOFing: “WWOOF is such an inspiring and life-changing thing to do; you can immerse yourself in a different place and culture while connecting with the land, yourself and other like-minded people. You’re getting exercise in the fresh air while learning a skill and supporting the organic movement. In return you get good food and accommodation – all for virtually no cost apart from the journey and annual membership fee (currently £20). In return, the farmer, WWOOF host or land owner gains from a helping hand and the land benefits from being stewarded in a sustainable way.”
Emma Goodwin, now a WWOOF host in Forest Row, East Sussex first took her family on a WWOOFing adventure around Europe in 2007, proving you don’t need to be young and single to enjoy the benefits of WWOOFing and it can appeal to anyone in any stage of life, as long as they able to work on the land. Emma said: “WWOOF enabled us to escape the city when we were unsure of how and where we wanted to live, when our two children were very small and we were looking for a new way of living. We wanted to “be the change”, WWOOFing showed us that another life was indeed possible, it gave us new skills and experiences. WWOOF UK now allows us to work the land with helpful hands and widen the family’s cultural experience. WWOOF provides an invaluable service, I can highly recommend WWOOFing if you are looking to gain new experience and broaden your horizons. All you need to enjoy the benefits are the joining fee and crystal clear communication with your potential host about what work is expected of you, what accommodation is being offered and arrival and departure dates, especially if you are travelling with children.
“We now live in Forest Row, East Sussex where we have a piece of land that we are developing as a community smallholding. We are WWOOF hosts and welcome people from all over the world to stay in our spare room and get involved with the Community Supported Agriculture schemes, growing vegetables for local people and The Coop Co-op: an egg collecting collective of 14 families who share the care of a flock of hens. You can see our project at www.thecrossingforestrow.wordpress.com or find us on Facebook at The Crossing Forest Row.”
If you fancy getting your hands dirty and joining the growing revolution, you can find out more at www.wwoof.org.uk.
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