by Lucy Farrier
Woofing? What the heck is woofing?? To put it simply, WWOOF (pronounced as woof and the plural as woofing) stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms. The true spirit of woofing is exchange, as a woofer you exchange your ability to work in return for good food and accommodation in someone’s home or on their property. Work nearly always involves pulling up your sleeves and getting dirty in the veggie garden or chicken run, getting creative by building things like garden paths or fruit enclosures and weeding.
Depending on whose property you are visiting, you could be harvesting fruit to pickle and make jam, or wrestling wool off a sheep’s back. Whatever the case, you’re most likely having a lot of fun doing it and learning something new. It’s a great way to travel, especially if you are doing it on the cheap and are interested in eating local produce and learning to live from the land.
So far in our travels around Australia we have woofed in Tasmania and on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. In Tassie we had a short stay with a woman at Western Creek, beneath the Great Western Tiers Mountain Range. We bonded with her two Shetland ponies well as we tirelessly raked up their poo. We cleaned out the chicken run, weeded, mowed and built a new bed in the veggie garden all the while getting regular feeds of homegrown produce and other local delicacies. We accompanied our host to her weekly yoga class where we met the neighbors and got invited to a night out at the legendary Deloraine Valentine Ball.
At the end of the day it felt good to help our host out. Although neighbors and other locals were on hand to help, it was obvious that it was a struggle to manage the property single handedly and that woofers were a means of getting by.
Woofing on Kangaroo Island was inspiring. The property was a one hundred acre block of bush with an impressive vegetable garden. Our hosts were referred to by most of the locals as hippies, I guess because of their love for the bush and efforts to live sustainably. Their home, which was built with their own sweat and tears is entirely freestone and recycled timber, solar powered and supplied with rainwater. They cooked according to what was in abundance in the veggie patch, brewed beer and were mad about cycling as a means of slow travel.
During our stay we learnt a lot including how to construct a large enclosure for a veggie garden using recycled materials and chicken wire. Most importantly, we got a taste of hardcore sustainable living including, the sacrifices one makes (hard work, time and effort) and the rewards (totally surrounded by bush, living as one with nature on your doorstep).