Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) is an organization that connects organic farms with volunteers from all over the globe.
Argentina is the world’s third largest producer of organic foods meaning the country is an ideal place to learn about organic farming while improving your Spanish.
Founded in England in 1971 as, ‘Working Weekends on Organic Farms,’ the group’s original mission was to provide urban dwellers with a bit of country life on the weekends, while helping out the then-infant organic farm movement. The idea became so popular that many decided to do extended stays, and through the years the organization evolved into its current carnation.
Under the motto, ‘Learning, living and sharing organic lifestyles,’ WWOOF is basically just a low-cost service, connecting volunteers and host farms.
Volunteers learn skills such as natural construction, irrigation, permaculture and solar design.
Americans, Mark Sandusky and Kevin Dean worked on an organic farm in Patagonia’s hippie haven, El Bolsón. “It was one of the best experiences of our lives,” says 23-year-old Sandusky. “We would wake up at sunrise and fall asleep at sunset. All of our meals came directly from the ground. It was a primitive lifestyle, but it made everything so simple and natural. We didn’t really have internet or phones. We didn’t really worry about any sort of schedule. We just worked outside, ate healthy and were secluded from the rest of the world.”
The duo learned how to make jam and hot sauce during their WWOOF experience, and later went on to open the Ya Ya Bean hot sauce company in Buenos Aires.
Choosing a Farm
A couple of things to be aware of are that while most of the farms are relatively close to big cities such as Mendoza, Buenos Aires, Salta or Bariloche some are quite remote and may not be close to transportation. One of the farms in Patagonia can only be reached by a 12 kilometer hike. A couple of the farms out of the list of around 70 have a religious aspect and may require guests to abstain from meat, tobacco, alcohol and sexual activity.
Once you sign up and pay your $38 fee, you are given a list of farms and their contact information. By contacting various farms you can suss out which rural paradise best fits your needs. Most request to be contacted at least a month before your visit. All the farms offer room and board in exchange for about six hours a day of labor, which can range from construction, farming, bread making, composting, teaching English, cattle ranching and a host of other tasks.
Argentina is a child-friendly country so many of the farms accept kids, but they will also need their own WWOOF membership. The participating farms are suppose to have an exclusive relationship with WWOOF, meaning that if you want to volunteer at one of the farms on the list — even if you found out about it some other way — you will need a membership.
There is no single WWOOF membership that covers every country that participates, but those looking to work in Argentina will want to sign up with WWOOF Latin America.