WWOOFing around the world

World traveling through a study abroad program at UVM: $10,000 – 20,000.World traveling through WWOOF: free.WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is an international organization designed to help people travel around the world inexpensively and uniquely.Sarah Potenza, a board member for WWOOF USA, describes WWOOF as “an umbrella term,” with each country’s WWOOF organization being independently run.WWOOF was founded in 1971 in the United Kingdom by Sue Coppard, a London secretary who worked on organic farms on the weekends.”She had an idea to get urban people out into rural areas and help farmers,” Potenza said. “From there, it grew into an international organization.”The basic idea of WWOOF is to see different countries through their people’s eyes.Rather than touring main attractions and staying in a hotel, WWOOFers – (people who travel through WWOOF) – stay with and help families who live on farms. In return, the WWOOFers receive food and shelter. There is no exchange of money.Potenza said that the majority of people who WWOOF are college students and recent graduates.Freshman Peter Boyer took off a year between high school and college to travel. He found WWOOFing to be an attractive option.”I didn’t think it was a crazy idea,” Boyer said. “Everybody was supportive [of my decision]. They thought it was a good idea and that it made sense. This would be my own year to be free.”Boyer WWOOFed on the north island of New Zealand for seven weeks on three different farms, doing random odd jobs such as de-horning calves. Then he went to French Polynesia, where he WWOOFed on a pearl farm on the atoll of Ahe.”It was a very ideal way to meet the people and immerse myself in the culture,” Boyer said.However, WWOOFing is not considered an easy option for everyone.In the summer of 2007, senior Sandy Mervak had plans to WWOOF on an olive farm in Benevento, Italy, during the week of New Years 2008.”I had thought about farming as a sum?mer job, but I didn’t think I could make enough money and I didn’t want to commute between Burlington and another rural city in the area,” Mervak said. “When I found about WWOOFing and found that farming was possible during the school year, I was like, ‘Cool.’ It seemed like something I could do over my holiday break,” he said.But upon his arrival to Naples, his plans did not work out accordingly.”I spoke with the owner beforehand, and everything seemed good,” he said. “After arriving and spending the night, I called the farmer and there was no answer. I tried again, no answer. I never heard from her again.”Mervak said that he is “still disappointed” that he was never able to WWOOF in Benevento, but that he would still recommend WWOOF to others.”Just have a plan b,” he said. “Make sure to establish good contact beforehand, for at least a couple weeks.”Faulty or not, Potenza feels WWOOF provides great opportunities.”It’s an incredible opportunity for people to travel uniquely,” she said. “You don’t have to pay and you can stay all over the world with different people.”Potenza, who WWOOFed herself in New Zealand, wants WWOOFers to get some?thing out of their travels.”It helps people by exposing them so they can make a difference,” she said. “I hope when they get back, they feel inspired to volunteer in their agricultural community or buy organic food.”