Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Sustainable Living and Land use › Skills and Craft › How can woofers stay on the farm?
- October 18, 2011 at 5:59 pm #43132October 19, 2011 at 1:01 am #69721AnthonyParticipant
My first farming experience was during a break from college on a farm across the country through wwoof.org. Both the farm and I took a big chance and it worked out well enough; I arrived back in NJ eight months later and decided to move on from pursuing an english degree in college to farming. I was very much the young person they described in the article. I wwoofed on another farm a couple years ago and we had some miscommunication (also very present in the first situation), but are still friends and I see them often. Both situations helped me through some transitory times in life. Some farming friends have taken on wwoofers with great experiences on both sides after figuring out what works for their farm. For me it seems that being very clear about expectations is most important, and perhaps taking on wwoofers for a shorter term/trial period if they’d like to stay longer than a week or two for both parties sake, as many wwoofers are just getting their feet wet when it comes to doing manual labor in a rural setting.
As for ‘staying on the farm’, it’s been 7 years since my first wwoofing experience and I’m still figuring it out (aren’t we all), but I’ve begun an animal powered vegetable csa this year and it seems quite possible that we’ll be supporting 3 farmers next season, and perhaps a wwoofer or 2 if we feel settled enough.October 19, 2011 at 1:16 am #69723dominiquer60Moderator
A friend of mine from NY was a Woofer in Peru for a couple winters, he had a great time and ended up meeting another Woofer from MN while they were in Peru. They are now farming partners here in NY finishing up their third successful season together and prepping for a fourth. I think the Woofer program does a good job at providing connections for those looking for a first hand experience with agriculture and provides the farmers with an extra hand or two that they can hopefully inspire.
Reminds me of someone that I apprenticed with, he and his wife met in Bolivia, they were both in the Peace corps working on projects at the time.
I think both are good but different programs.October 19, 2011 at 11:54 am #69720Does’ LeapParticipant
We have had over 35 intern/apprentices on our farm during our first 10 years. With few exceptions, these were very positive experiences. They helped up with a labor deficit and we provided a well rounded experience in goat dairying and cheesemaking. Three couples have gone on to start their own goat farms and many of the folks who have come through here are now great friends. One key to making it work was very clear expectations, in writing, that outline our mutual responsibilities (interns and ours) along with regular meetings etc.
Three years ago we opted to forgo our intern program and have gone to one full-time employee. The reason we gave up this “free” labor (we provided room and board with no stipend), is that it is extremely time consuming to train new people every 3-6 months. I was very reluctant at first to go with an employee, but Kristan really pushed for it. Training aside, it is also taxing to manage folks on a day to day basis. We were committed to working with and training our interns and not sending them off alone to do menial labor. Working with and training someone on a daily basis takes time and and effort. Ultimately the shift to an employee made our farm more profitable and really improved our quality of life.
Despite the shift we made, having interns was extremely positive. If you are short on labor and have any desire/aptitude in teaching/training, I highly recommend it.
GeorgeNovember 6, 2011 at 4:52 am #69722near horseParticipant
George – I’m glad to hear of your positive experience with the WOOFers. I think you make a valid point in clearly identifying and stating goals and expectations.
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