WWOOF, the network of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, helps link volunteers with organic farmers globally. Although their website is quite navigable and clear for those who want to learn more, I’ll briefly describe some aspects here.
The number of little organic family farms around the world is immense, and the amount of them located in beautiful natural areas is, as one might imagine, also quite staggering. Just think of the expansiveness of the French countryside, or the warm welcomes of Latin American campesinos, and project such elements (and dozens of other great characteristics) on hundreds of thousands of farms around the world that could use a helping hand. WWOOF helps put people interested in growing organic crops and farmers who like to teach or need some additional assistance together; especially those of both groups who want to experience international travel, practice another language in an immersive setting, or learn from other cultures directly. Volunteers bring their skills and labor to a farm, and the host family provides housing and food in return.
As the title of this post suggests, I am not just writing about WWOOF to share its existence with those of you who may have never heard of it before, but because I realized recently that part of my experience here in Galápagos could easily qualify as the dream summer of a WWOOFer (in this case a volunteer at an organic farm). I haven’t written about it before, and the bulk of my work has yet to begin, but while living with Reyna and Roberto (in a tent right next to their house) I’ve been giving a hand at the coffee farm that they’re starting. So far I’ve helped measure out stakes every two meters for about 700 stakes, rolled out who knows how many hundreds of meters of string running along the stake-lines to ensure straightness (and rolled them back up: see picture), scrubbed some sort of giant bamboo black fungus that was staining the poles to make this chicken coop (many of them were pitch-black before), mixed and poured cement to pour into said poles, and packed coffee saplings to be transported for planting.
Helping out at the farm, as well as washing the dishes, has helped me feel that I’m giving back to my hosts, who have graciously fed and housed me for over three weeks now. Perhaps if my assistance is considered worth replicating in future years with other volunteers, Reyna and Roberto will become the first WWOOF farmers in Galápagos—a significant addition to the Ecuadorian network!