Long live WWOOF

May 1, 2024

By Fuggo King

We have been hosts since 2003. WWOOFing has changed our lives for the better. Overdramatic? No, I won’t qualify it, I will amplify it.

At its best WWOOF is a culture of trust and mutual exchange, never perfect but in our experience always willing to learn and adapt and to openly address problems. The WWOOFing community is an amazing resource of experience and skills, all ages and abilities, sharing cultures, swapping stories and generally very supportive.

Pumpkin – bigger than Geoff’s head!

Why do I believe this? I have met over 150 volunteers and hosts, both here at home and at other farms and gardens. I worked as a regional host contact in north Scotland for some years. This involved organising social gatherings and offering myself as a first point of contact for hosts with questions or problems. All through this time I have heard many positive stories and witnessed much happiness, shared learning, laughter and great results in sharing healthy foods and outdoor living. When problems have occurred there has been an openness which has helped resolve difficulties.

When we first became hosts we had a visit from another local host to check our suitability and genuine organic intentions. This lovely couple are still friends and have a great open food garden on the west coast of Scotland. All the host entries were published in an annual book. We had an email and phone number for volunteers to contact us. We also got a visit request by letter. WWOOF had no website at that point. We were given a visitor’s book which we still have although we are using book two now. We also decided to ask if we could take pictures with each set of visitors. This is not only a great way to remember all our helpers, but also to see all the amazing changes over the years.

We opted for the offer to be matched up with first time WWOOFers as we were a little unsure how this would all work and didn’t want to take advantage of our visitors. We ended up joking with the two German women about slavery (there was none!) Which is one of my main loves of this system. It is purely voluntary, an agreement on both sides and should be open to change at all times. As you can see, with the modern website, online reviews and many alternative ways to keep in touch, many changes have occurred. Many more will occur, but it is my belief that the spirit of WWOOF, the community we belong to, will continue.

Potato goddesses

Many young people come to us concerned for their place in the world, looking for alternatives to mainstream stress and lifestyle. They eat well, sleep well and leave inspired. We don’t sugar coat how hard some of our choices have been, but we share what we love. In return we are also supported and inspired by our visitors and have stayed in contact with many. Some return and we visit them too. Our son has married a returning WWOOFer and they live nearby with our grandchildren, an unexpected bonus.

Our own woodland garden has benefited in many ways over the years. We have a compost toilet built from recycled doors, windows, bricks and timber. We have raised beds, fruit cages built with hazel coppice poles, wood sheds, many years of baby plants raised, nurtured and eaten and the seeds collected for the next year. But the greatest benefits have been the life and energy that our WWOOFers have shared with us. This has been over meals, evenings by the fire, card and board games and communicating and laughing despite our language differences. These fleeting friendships and the longer lasting ones are what the WWOOFing community can celebrate.

Long Live WWOOFing!

We’d like to thank Fuggo for being such a fantastic advocate for WWOOFing and especially for writing this gorgeous article and illustrated so wonderfully too! Fuggo is a dynamo for positive change in the world and you can read about the work she does for the Highland Good Food Partnership here.

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