WWOOFing

While planning for traveling, someone suggested we look into Wwoof (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Wwoof is a network of national organizations that help place volunteers on organic farms. There are currently 99 countries with Wwoof hosts (I recently heard Hawaii has lots of farms!) and for a $30 membership fee, I became a member of Wwoof Italia. Membership made me official (just in case a farmer actually asked) and gave me access to an overwhelming list of hundreds of farmers in Italy who were looking for help. Each farmer provided a description of the farm and explained what would be expected from wwoofers. The various farms included anything from working with animals, fruit trees, olives, vineyards, honey, cheese, herbs, etc. We thought this would be an insightful and meaningful way to experience some Italian culture; and besides, who doesn’t romanticize about life on a Tuscan vineyard?

Wwoofing is not a lucrative business; rather, you work in exchange for room, board, and the opportunity to learn. When contacting the farmers, we always asked what kind of work we would be doing, how many hours a day we would be working, and what the room and board situation looked like. We wanted to make sure that the farmer we worked for would not take advantage of the free labor, but rather, stay true to the spirit of wwoofing, which involves an exchange of knowledge. After contacting dozens of farmers, we finally settled on a vineyard located in the heart of Tuscany.

We took the train from Pisa and stepped off at the San Miniato station, where the vineyard owner had planned on picking us up. After an hour of waiting, we determined that we’d been forgotten. Lucky for us, Matt has a GPS implanted in his brain and was able to navigate us through town and the countryside to the farm. We walked up the driveway and came upon a big red building. Our ears perked up upon hearing English coming from the second floor and we walked upstairs to discover three wwoofers cleaning up after lunch. “Hi, we’re the new wwoofers!” we excitedly introduced ourselves. “Oh,” they replied, “We didn’t know we were getting more wwoofers!” This seemed to be the story with the full time staff as well. After weeks of communicating with the vineyard owner, no one knew we were coming! Miscommunication, we quickly discovered, was a common (if not expected) theme on the farm.

Nonetheless, our fellow wwoofers were very kindhearted and took us under their wing as they gave us a tour of the farm. We set down our packs and got to work.

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