I've been promising it for a while, and now the time has come for me to tell you about WWOOFing. Hooray!
So what on Earth is this mysterious acronym that I've been throwing around?
WWOOF stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. It's a scheme in which people like me, travelling around Australia, can find a "host" and trade work in exchange for food and accommodation.
And that's exactly what I'll be doing for a while.
To become a WWOOFer you need a copy of the WWOOF book; a travelling worker's bible, it contains information and contact details for all the active WWOOF hosts across the country. In order to get a WWOOF book you have to buy one. It costs around $70, and by buying one you become official signed up to the scheme, with a membership number and everything. Hosts will only take you in if you can prove your identity in relation to your membership number to increase security.
Once you have the book, and a membership, you have the freedom to contact any of the hosts detailed and arrange a stay. Pretty straight forward stuff really.
It's worth noting that the hosts aren't necessarily "farms" in the traditional sense. The requirements for hosts (that I have found) do not detail anything to do with property/business type. As long as they grow or produce organic products all is well and good, quite a lot of WWOOF hosts just have small areas of land where they grow a little bit of produce, others have large areas of land that they are revegetating, some even deal with livestock.
"So what have you got planned?" I hear you ask.
Last week I spent a day firing off 5 emails and making a post on the WWOOF forum for folks looking for a host. I figured that it may be difficult to find a suitable host so, knowing where I wanted to be heading first, I found the appropriate section in the WWOOF book and started at the beginning.
It turned out that, in this instance at least, my fears of difficulty were unfounded and I'm glad I didn't send more than 5 emails to start with. I received a positive reply from my first email, and several replies to my forum post.
My first destination will be Adelaide; I have accepted an offer from a host there for 1 week to start with, there's the possibility of a longer stay if I'm not completely psychotic, and that I'm capable of the work. I'm not 100% sure on what the work will entail, but the WWOOF book has the following as a description of the place:
"Our award winning sustainable home a pleasant 10 minute bike ride from city, in loose community of like minded & environmentally responsible neighbours who have willingly linked backyards as well as their lives. Our children , interests & careers all overlap in a social and creative/productive matrix that is a wonder to behold! Regular travel to our bush block in Berawinnia in the Mclaren Vale wine region (40km south) where we are establishing a venue to practice, host & investigate nature-based play. Work includes gardening, GFM, food prep/preservation, bush care, landscaping, building & creating magical spaces for children. Accom for 2 people in pleasant room in backyard & at Berawinnia we sleep inside, outside or even in a giant River Red Gum!"
So yeah, sounds pretty varied to start with. I've also made contact with another place slightly north of Adelaide at an orchard where they produce various different fruits for sale (and for making jams), as well as hosting some form of dinner party things, which should be good fun.
In addition to these two places, I have had a conversation with a couple up on The Sunshine Coast who own a guest house which by the sound of it I will have access to, as well as the pool, and beaches 15 minutes away. Just need to organise something more final nearer the time I'll be making my way up the East Coast.
Oh, and there's the people south of Sydney who have 14 acres of land, a solar powered, mud brick house, and complete sustainable living, growing various fruits and vegetables, and keeping livestock.
So that's WWOOFing, and my basic plans for the near future. I'm really looking forward to the experience; I'll get to meet new folk around the country and help them out doing what they do, I'll get to do some proper labouring, and I'll learn so much new stuff. My only worry is that I won't be able to keep up with all the work I'm going to have to do, I'll just have to find out when I get started.
I will of course keep you up to date with how I get on in these places. Hopefully there'll be lots of "I LEARNT TO MILK A COW", or "I JUST BUILT A TREE HOUSE" type posts. Time will tell...