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Volunteer Work on Organic Farms Abroad

While some alternative travel experiences will empty your pockets and steer you away from the main attraction of the trip—the heart of the country itself—there is an alternative that not only allows you to get off the beaten track but also allows you to live and work closely with local people and spend almost nothing: volunteering on an agrotourism project.

Environmental generation projects and organic farms are rapidly appearing all over the world, offering a whole new experience to both the traveler on a shoestring and those who just want to try something new whilst working with and for the environment. The agrotourism experience can vary greatly according to your needs, from paying to stay on an organic farm as a guest in Costa Rica, to paying a very small fee and working for a couple of hours a day on a reserve in Ghana, to getting down and dirty for free room and board in Canada. Whatever type of rural experience you desire, there are thousands of farms all over the world to cater for your needs.

However, the most fulfilling experience by far is that of volunteering and actually participating wholeheartedly in a project with both locals and other volunteers. Every culture looks a little bit different from the ground up, and because the majority of environmental projects and organic farms are located in very rural communities, you will be exposed to an experience that you would be hard-pressed to find either on an “ecotour” or as an independent traveler.

You will usually be rewarded with free room and board; in the more affluent countries you may even receive a small stipend. Every farm varies so it is best to check what is expected of you before you go. Just be aware that some work will be required of you, whether you want to try for a few days or weeks or commit up to a year.

Accommodations are often rustic and unusual but always comfortable. Meals are provided and are often eaten communally; much of the food on your plate will have been grown right there on that farm.

You will be able to enjoy the benefits of being in the beautiful wilderness of a new and different country, whilst having the reassurance that you have a safe place to stay with a secure social network around you. Alongside this luxury, you will learn how to grow your own food without pesticides, be exposed to many new and alternative learning experiences, and give something back to the environment. And because of the abundance of these farms, it is not always necessary to stay in one place. By moving from farm to farm, the entire country—no, the entire world—becomes available to you.

As a veteran organic farm volunteer, I can recommend this experience to anyone who is fit and capable and doesn’t mind getting a bit muddy. Volunteering on an organic farm is about giving and receiving, not about trying to get a free ride. Farm and project hosts often give up their time and space to welcome volunteers, so respect and care must always be reciprocated. However, this is rarely a problem as the community vibe produced by such projects usually makes people pull together wonderfully.

Agrotourism has become the more environmentally-conscious answer to seeing the world from a slightly different viewpoint, from the ground up, and offers accessibility to the world to those of us who desire an unpretentious eco-experience. But beware: it can be addictive. I left a job in Britain to manage an organic farm in Costa Rica, and stayed far longer than expected..

For More Information on Organic Farm Work Abroad

www.wwoof.org: The website offers a huge list of countries all over the world that have organic farms. Some countries separate WWOOF organizations but you will be directed to these from this website.

www.organicvolunteers.com: This is a free site that lists mainly farms in the U.S., although it does include some other countries such as Costa Rica.

www.helpx.net: Another free website that lists farms in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

www.idealist.org: A great website that lists many environmental volunteer opportunities all over the world as well as some paid internships in the same field.

www.planorganic.com: A useful website that offers organic food and farming news for Europe, as well as a guide to the best associated sites on the Web.


Caroline Nye
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