We needed a break from our city lived, we needed to get back to the nature we were missing so much. So we chose to test wwoofing. For those who don’t know what it’s about, the principle is simple : for four hours of work per day, a farmer ? A welcoming and easy-going farmer welcomes you at his place. You are accomodated, you’re given meals and your laundry is done. We were up for helping, so it was set : we were ready to work during our holidays.
Everyting started with the membership for the organisation Wwoof France (35 euros for both of us). You are given the list of all the farmers welcoming woofers. You can also become a member of the organisation Wwoof World which will give you access to the international list if you want to go abroad. This organisation gives a bit of context to your arrival, because in France, there’s no legal status. It’s a moral contract between you and the people who welcome you based on the wwoofing agreement.
We favoured market gardening : it’s a field we’re very interested in and it was the opportunity for us to see different projects (sale on the market, basket, “AMAP”…) and to see the different steps to become a farmer (people starting up, those who are under development and those at the end of their carreer).
The second criteria was the localisation. One priority, the sea ! Spending your holidays working, okay, but we wanted to enjoy the sea.
The texts of the different ads helped us to chose among all the wwoofing ads, but the feeling we had was also a very important part in our decision. After a few phone calls and emails we got organised. We shared the two months we had into three farms situated in the west part of France (Loire Atlantique, Morbihan and Vendée) for different lengths : four, two and three weeks.
The following describes what we experienced.
The wwoofing agreement gives the basis of the work. In reality it’s very different. We could work for more or less two to eight hours a day. Some farmers made us work in weekends. The work was very different from one place to the other : we weeded, we planted seeds, we harvested, we built greenhouses, we sold products on markets, we drove the tractor… Everything depends on what your host needs and the the investment you’re ready to go for. Without any work contract the relations are only made of discussions and mutual respect.
The way you behave with people is the most important thing so that everything goes well. You work, eat and live together. Live at someone else’s place may be a bit complicated because you enter someone else’s intimacy. Affinity is sometimes easy, sometimes no. We learnt so much thanks to them. We learnt about the reality of their field work but also about the economic situation of agriculture or livestock farming. We mustn’t forget all the discussions we had on the « system », happiness or life while drinking or eating…
When you don’t work much you have a lot of time to visit the area or you can just wander around. Accomodation can offer various standards of conforts and intimacy with the hosts. They can be more or less close, depending on where they live : close to the farm, in the farm… We lived in a van, a mobile home and a house. We prefered the van because, even if it’s narrow and very hot, we loved the natural aspect of it. Two of the farmers had bikes for the wwoofers which allowed us to ride to the beach by bikes.
It was also very convenient to get everything you wanted in the farm to cook. It was very nice to discover all sorts of vegetables (of which ancient ones) and herbs and to be able to say :
‘I’d like to eat potatoes.’
‘ Ok, I’m going to the garden to get some.’
We had very nice meals during those two months. It was a healthy period of (organic) vegetables ! A few pieces of meat but nice fruits, local products, fish and seafruits.
At the end of the day these two months were an amazing experience we had no problem to qualify as ‘holiday’ because it was so good for us, for our minds and our bodies. Our hosts completed their agreement as they welcomed us so warmly. The amount of work and the welcome can change from one farm to the other but it’s usually enough to communicate on the needs and wills of everyone to avoid bad surprises and misunderstandings. We had a lot of experiences, contacts and different places to go to make the most of it. It also gave us the liberty not to be blocked in one place for two months in an environment we wouldn’t like (even it was unnecessary in our case). In short, wwoofing is a very positive experience !
Peu importe la distance, peu importe la destination. Le plus important en voyage, vélo ou autre, est de profiter de l'instant présent. Que ce soit le paysage, les rencontres, la route, les longues instrospections ou les discussions endiablées… tout est prétexte à la découverte et à l'aventure. Reste à chacun d'en choisir le cadre.
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