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VOLUNTEERING GONE WAAAYYY WRONG and 10 TIPS TO AVOID BAD VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCES

VOLUNTEERING GONE WAAAYYY WRONG and 10 TIPS TO AVOID BAD VOLUNTEER EXPERIENCES

 

Recently I had  very bad WWOOF volunteering experiences at WWOOF host farm, Kanalu Kennels, near Tallahassee, Florida. I found out when I arrived that they expected me to work 10-12 hours/day, 6 days/week for room and board. That was quite different from what they’d posted on their farm’s WWOOF page: 5 hours/day, 5 days/week. When I arrived, there was already one young French girl WWOOFing. She told me she had been working 60-70 hours/ week for a month at that point.

 

volunteer experiences- WWOOF- Kanalu Farms- Florida

 

While there, I got sick from chemicals I sprayed on squash plants. The farm hosts denied and ignored my illness. My food was rationed and I was banned one night from dinner because they’d decided I’d already eaten enough that day! Needless to say, I got out off that farm as quickly as possible. I felt very lucky that I had money to pay for a bus ticket as well as a place to escape to.

 

What if I’d been an overseas volunteer, flying in from another country and didn’t speak much English, like the young French WWOOF volunteer who was there? What about a volunteer arriving with no extra funds, no back up plan, no place to go?

 

My dreadful experience and the thought of other potential volunteer ‘victims’ has lead me to write this post. I’d like to give some tips and advice about how to avoid a similar fate. In hindsight, despite the huge inaccuracy of the farm’s WWOOF page in regard to work hours and other specifics, I still could have avoided going to that farm if I had asked a lot more in-depth questions beforehand and if I had not ignored several red flags, including my gut instinct. I’d like to share my insights.

 

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this experience, let me explain a bit about WWOOF and my background with WWOOF volunteering. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is an international organization with branches in many countries around the world. Their aim is to bring together volunteers and hosts: organic farms, small businesses such as B-n-B’s and Eco resorts, and private families with organic gardens. WWOOF clearly supports the organic movement and sound environmental practices. WWOOF’s general volunteer concept is ‘One-half day of volunteer help is traded for food and accommodation, with no money exchanged’. Hosts get help and volunteers get a place to live and learn. Sounds fair to me!

 

Way back before I began my world travels in 1998, I researched dozens of volunteer organizations around the world. Unfortunately, I discovered that most of them require ‘volunteers’ to pay large fees to participate and to pay for their own room and board in addition to volunteering their time. I opted out of those schemes. But I did discover WWOOF, which I promptly joined before setting off on my world trip.

 

I’ve had many fantastic WWOOF experiences in Australia at WWOOF hosts such as Sanctuary Retreat Eco Resort in Mission Beach, a second private B n B and garden in Kuranda, and a private home near Cairns. Every place I WWOOFed in Australia, I was asked to work 4-5 hours/ day, 5 or 6 days/ week. The remaining time was my own to do as I pleased. At the Eco Resort, I had set hours, starting at 7 am. By noon I was finished and had the whole afternoon and evening ahead of me. At other places, hours were more flexible. In fact, I was simply trusted to put in my agreed upon hours whenever I wanted throughout the day. Sanctuary Retreat provided a separate WWOOFers’ kitchen with fully stocked fridge and kitchen utensils, appliances, etc. Volunteers simply went to eat whenever they wanted. Other WWOOF hosts took me into their lives as a family member to make myself at home.

 

All my volunteer experiences were very enjoyable. I had the satisfaction of helping out and ‘earning my keep’ with my gardening, cooking and baking skills, On top of that, the hosts involved me in the community by inviting me to parties and events, telling me about little-known local places, taking me hiking, and so on. I discovered that WWOOF volunteering was a fantastic way to really get to know an area more thoroughly than I would as a mere traveler. I was looking forward to more WWOOF experiences down the road.

 

This year I joined WWOOF USA.  WWOOF USA states throughout their website, ‘One-half day of volunteer help is traded for food and accommodation, with no money exchanged’. They further specify, ‘We say that you should work up to 6 hours a day, 5 and 1/2 days a week’.
Coming from the WWOOF USA website and my previous WWOOF experiences, I was absolutely shocked at the situation I stepped into at Kanalu Kennels. First of all, I was shocked that they expected me to work 60-70 hours/ week just for room and board. Mr. Carey, the owner, told me that during their 3 years of hosting 10-18-30 volunteers (the numbers kept changing), all the volunteers had worked those hours. None of them had complained. Apparently, I was the first volunteer who had protested. I was the first to point out Mr. Carey’s own statement on his Kanalu WWOOF page: 5 hours/day, 5 days/week. Apparently, I was also the first one to point out the WWOOF USA guidelines for work hours. Needless to say, they were as equally astounded at my attitude as I was at theirs.

 

I was further surprised at their meal situation. After my prior WWOOF experiences of open kitchens to volunteers, I was astounded to be told that I had to ask permission before eating and to be told what I could or couldn’t eat. In addition, while I was there we did not eat any of their own farm grown vegetables. We did consume a lot of powdered lemonade mix, canned tuna and canned chicken sandwiches.
During the week that I was at Kanalu, the Carey’s prepared a nice breakfast around 8 am, had a light lunch of a tuna fish sandwich around noon, and sometimes prepared dinner around 8-9 pm.

 

I was there 5 nights. In that time, they made dinner 3 nights. Of those 3 dinners, I ate only one, on the night I arrived. I didn’t eat the second dinner they prepared because I was sick from chemicals I had sprayed on crops that day. I skipped dinner and went to bed early. The 3rd dinner I didn’t eat because Mr. Carey banned me from the meal. He said I had already eaten enough that day and I was not allowed to eat dinner! As a matter of fact, I had been eating my own food that I’d taken with me.

 

Whenever I wanted to eat beyond their 3 set meal times, they seemed to get very upset. I was especially surprised at their attitude because I’d previously told Mr. Carey in a phone conversation before I went to Kanalu that I had a fast metabolism and needed to eat about every 4 hours. On the phone he’d told me that was ok and that I could simply prepare my extra meals the night before.

 

However, the most alarming incident was the fact that I got sick from chemicals they asked me to spray on their crops. I’m not sure what the chemicals were because I’m not too familiar with farming chemicals and procedures. I do know that it was a mix of 3 chemicals, including bleach, a ‘choro..’ something, and something like ‘peretherin’. I was spraying the mixture on squash plants to fight Downy mildew. The squash leaves have little needles which can irritate the skin.
I sprayed for 3.5 hours in 100F heat in Florida under bright sunny skies. The Careys did not suggest I cover my skin or offer other safety precautions. They did not give me a face mask. My arms, face and legs were bare. 
 
By noon I was not feeling very well. I went inside to eat. My arms were both covered in red rash from wrists to elbows and were burning. I washed them in cold water, put on moisturizer and then an anti- inflammatory cream. I drank a lot of water and electrolytes. I continued feeling worse. I took 2 anti-histamines, which I luckily had with me. I continued feeling sick with symptoms including diarrhea, overall malaise, slight tightness in the chest, and lack of concentration.

Twice that day I told both Mr. and Mrs. Carey that I felt sick and seemed to have an allergic reaction to either the chemicals or squash plants. They told  me it had nothing to do with either plants or chemicals. They didn’t seem to notice the fact that my arms had a bright red rash and were burning.They seemed unconcerned with my condition.

I continued feeling sick all day. I finally skipped dinner and went to bed early. I also slept all night in air conditioning, which is amazing for me. As anyone who knows me will attest, I never use a/c. I hate it and avoid it as much as possible.

 

There were a few more incidents during my 4 days/5 nights at Kanalu Kennels, but the expected work hours, food situation, and illness from chemicals are the my main concerns.

 

After leaving the farm, I naturally contacted the WWOOF USA office to report my experience at Kanalu Kennels. I’ve exchanged several emails with the Program Director, Mr. Ryan “Leo” Goldsmith. In addition, since every WWOOF host’s page has a volunteers’ comment section at the bottom of the page, I also submitted my comments on the Kanalu Kennel WWOOF page. My comments were received and reviewed by WWOOF USA and have been banned from being posted, on the grounds that they are ‘not acceptable’. Essentially, I’m not allowed to post my frank review, although I am allowed to submit revised comments, to be again reviewed by WWOOF USA. In regard to my getting sick from chemicals at Kanalu, the Program Director simply commented, “ I have asked him (Kanalu Kennels) to include in his host profile that he occasionally uses mildew control which some people may be sensitive to.” That was it. I have since checked the Kanalu WWOOF page and it makes no mention of their use of mildew sprays.

 

I’ve asked Mr. Goldsmith for an interview. I have several questions about WWOOF USA’s stance on volunteers’ work hours, farms’ responsibilities regarding work hours and the volunteer workers’ use of chemicals. He has declined an interview.

 

In any event, following is my assessment of what went wrong, what I lost, what I gained and how I could have avoided the situation altogether. I encourage you to learn from my mistakes, to avoid a similar fate, and to ensure that you’ll always have great volunteering experiences.

 

What went wrong?

 


1. In my opinion, the main problem was that what the farm stated on its WWOOF farm page about expected work hours was grossly inaccurate in regard to what they actually expected of me as a volunteer. If they had accurately stated what they really expected (10-12 hour days, 6 days/week) I never would have applied to the farm in the first place.

 

2. Despite that, I still could easily have avoided going there in the first place simply by asking comprehensive, direct and specific questions, paying attention to red flags and listening to my own gut instinct.

 

3. In addition, once I got there, I could have avoided getting sick from using chemicals simply by protecting myself from what they asked me to do.

 

There were several red flags I simply ignored, including:

 

1. The farm’s location near Tallahassee, Florida, part of America’s Bible Belt. The area is generally known by Americans as a strongly conservative, often extremely religious stronghold and an area where there have been various scandals involving child abuse and labor abuse. Only Americans would know this. Unfortunately, volunteers from other countries wouldn’t be privy to this red flag. But I’m American and I knew it.

 

Of course, just because a farm is located in that area does not automatically mean it fits this stereotype! But it’s certainly something to consider and check into. In my case, I simply trusted that WWOOF farmers would be different.

 

2. The farm did not request a phone interview beforehand. Nor did they have an application form for potential volunteers. They did not make any attempt to get to know more about me or find out who I am. Other farms I’d applied to at the same time had a somewhat extensive application and gave me a phone ‘interview’. They called me to get to know me and clarify all expectations.

 

3. The farm accepted my application very quickly, no questions asked.

 

4. Since they did not offer to call me, I called them about 3 weeks beforehand in order to get to know them a bit and discuss details. During the phone conversation with Mr. Carey, it became apparent that they were working much longer hours than they’d posted on their WWOOF page. I told Mr. Carey that I was prepared to work 4-6 hours/day, along the lines of what he’d posted on his page. He said that would be fine. However, the simple fact that the posted work hours and the actual work hours were so different should have been a clear red flag. Hello? Alarm bells!

 

Misunderstandings:

 

1. After I arrived, Mr. Carey and I soon realized that we had a lot of misunderstandings during that phone conversation. Although I had asked questions about work hours and told him about my eating habits, I did not get specific enough. We both walked out of the conversation thinking we were in agreement, when in fact, we had very different ideas and assumptions about what was said.

 

2. It also became apparent to me over the few days I was there that Mrs. Carey had not been informed about my eating habits, about what was actually stated on their own WWOOF page, or about the phone conversation in which we’d discussed work hours. She had no clue that I’d told Mr. Carey I needed to eat every 4 hours or that we’d agreed that I wasn’t working their usual sun to sun hours. Consequently, she was surprised, confused and angry at my position.

What I lost:

 

* One week of my usual happy life.
* One week behind schedule on publishing my books.
* Over $200 in bus and food fees.
* A day of health.
What I gained:

 

* A step back from the final editing of my books. The end result was more thoroughly edited books.

 

* Great lessons on how to avoid getting into bad volunteering or house-sitting situations as I continue my world travels. It’s certainly better to have learned these lesson in a place I could easily get away from and have personal support.

 

* The chance to help other potential volunteers avoid getting into bad situations themselves.

 

* Finally, I learned very distinctly why the US Labor Laws were created as well as why we still need them.

 

Lessons Learned- How to Avoid Getting into a Bad Volunteering Position:

 

1. Dont’ assume that what’s written on a host’s WWOOF page is accurate. Ask specific questions about everything written on their page.
I believed what the WWOOF host had written on their WWOOF page farm description. I tend to trust what people have written and say about themselves. I wish we could safely be so trusting. Unfortunately, as I just found out, what someone has written may not be accurate. It could be outdated or even intentionally misleading. Double check just to be sure.

 

Ask the hosts, either by phone or email, every specific point that’s written on their page. Preferably, get it in writing. Just ask directly, ie. “It says on your WWOOF page that you expect 5 hours/ day, 5 days/ week of work from volunteers. Is that still accurate?”
Ask specific questions about work hours, accommodation, bathing, food and meal procedures, specific work tasks, farming procedures and techniques, free time and anything else you’re concerned about.

 

2. If you find out that what they’ve written on their page is not accurate, that’s a red flag. That farm would become suspect in my books.
In my initial phone conversation with the host, he laid out the 10-12 hour/day schedule for me. That should have been a clear alarm bell to me. I should have bowed out right then and there. Alternately, I should have gotten down to very specifically what they wanted me to do. Ie: “So, exactly how many hours/ day and per week do you expect me to work?” Again, try to get it in writing.

3. If a volunteer host does not express any interest in talking with you beforehand by phone, getting to know you first, gather any information from you, or have you fill out some kind of application form, that’s a red flag. It shows they’re willing to accept anyone. Maybe they’re desperate for help?

 

4. If anyone asks you to use chemicals, don’t agree until you’ve first read the chemical labels and warnings and/or researched it online. Make sure you believe it’s safe before you use it. You have to protect yourself. Nobody can force you to do work you think is dangerous in any way, especially as a volunteer.

When the farmer asked me to spray chemicals on plants for Downy mildew, once again, I was trusting and went along with it. I am aware that chemicals alone vs. chemicals mixed together may have totally different consequences, and I did stop to ask Mr. Carey if he was sure it was ok. But then I just took his word for it when he said, ‘yes’.

 

5. Don’t use chemicals without protecting your skin and face! If the farmer doesn’t request or insist that you use protection, there’s another red flag. I’m certainly not saying people intentionally poison workers. They may be uninformed about the chemicals’ warnings and dangers. Perhaps they’ve used it themselves with no ill effects, which does not mean you will have the same reaction. Perhaps they’re just careless with themselves, and as an extension, with other people as well.

 

6. If possible, have a back-up plan. I realize this might be difficult if you’re traveling overseas and you’ve made a commitment to volunteer for a month or few months at a place. Ideally, you don’t need another plan for those few months. But if possible, have a back-up plan. Minimally, know where you can get transportation out, when and how much it costs to leave if you need to. Try to have funds to leave if possible. In addition, check about where you could stay, if necessary, nearby, at least until you can go somewhere else. You could always check on Couch Surfing, Tripping, other nearby WWOOF farms, as well as hostels and hotels.

 

7. Leave the farm’s contact information with someone- family, friends, acquaintances. Give the hosts’ names, phone number and address. Have someone call soon after your arrival so the farm knows you’re connected with concerned people. I gave Kanalu’s contact information to my brother and mother. I called my brother soon after I’d arrived. The Carey’s knew I had relatives nearby.

 

8. Make sure the host’s spouse and/or other members of the farm are informed about your agreements and discussions with your host. It’s pretty common for family members to not communicate well. People get busy, forget, or just aren’t good communicators.

 

9. Dont’ ignore red flags! Address them! With specific direct questions, preferably in writing.

 

10. Don’t ignore your gut instinct! If you’re going ‘uh oh’ inside, then there’s probably a good reason for that feeling. Again, address your concerns directly. Alternately, decide not to go. You haven’t signed a binding contract!

 

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I hope this advice will help you secure mutually enjoyable volunteering experiences as you travel the world. I know I will certainly take my own advice from now on and learn from the mistakes I made this time while applying for volunteer jobs. Thank you for reading. Happy trails! For another perspective on my experience:

 

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Nancy Sathre-Vogel of FamilyOnBikes has written an article about my experience at Kanalu Kennels for the Washington Times Communities. Nancy contacted both Kanalu Kennels and WWOOF USA to get the perspectives of all parties. It’s a well-done, balanced, and interesting article, which I encourage you to read.
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Meanwhile, leave some comments:

 

What are your opinions and perspectives on my case?

What do you think is a fair exchange of volunteer labor for room and board?

 

Do you think it’s fair to ask volunteers to work 10-12 hours/day, 6 day/week in exchange for room and board?

 

Would you work that much for just room and board?

 

Do you think it makes a difference in volunteer’s work expectations if the volunteer organization is a commercial or non-profit?

 

Do you have any additional tips to potential volunteers to help ensure they have a good experience?

What WWOOF experiences have you had?

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If you’re interested in volunteering around the world, whether WWOOF ing or other volunteer opps, check out my friend Shannon O’Donnells great guidebook. It will really help you find the best volunteer gigs for you:

 

Volunteer Traveler's Handbook - Shannon ODonnell - A Little Adrift

The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook  by Shannon O’Donnell of A Little Adrift

In Shannon’s own words, “The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook guides new and veteran travelers through the challenges of finding, vetting, and choosing their ideal volunteer experience. The book’s practical advice is interwoven with first-person narrative, stories from a wide range of volunteers, beautiful photography, and expert interviews to help interested volunteers find meaningful ways to give back to communities all over the world-through volunteering, but also through social enterprises and supporting sustainable tourism practices.”

Click here for print book               Click for Kindle version

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69 comments

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  1. Suzy

    I'm really sorry to hear you were treated so poorly Lash! Your experience reminds me of when I was an au pair, for a few days, in Italy. I was supposed to stay on for three months. They had told me I would have my own room and bathroom with a private entrance and I would receive a certain amount of money each week. I would also have weekends off. When I got there, they said I would have to ask for certain weekends off. They showed me to a hallway as my room and quoted a payment each week far lower than we agreed. I think in those situations, you really have to be brave and stand up for yourself and leave. I wrote a similar post about what I should have done better/learned. I'm sure your experience will help a lot of future WWOOF volunteers.

  2. LASH

    Hi Suzy. Wow, sorry to hear you had a similar experience! A few others (all women, oddly) wrote to tell me they also had similar experiences. I have to sometimes wonder what's wrong with people's sense of fairness and right n wrong. Weird! Do you still have your post online? If so, include a link! Yes, I hope this helps other avoid similar predicaments! thanks for helping to spread the word! cheers, Lash

  3. Stephen

    Sorry about you bad experience. I've never WWOOFed myself, but usually hear stories about it. I agree with what you've said. It looks like they are exploiting volunteers. You were right to stand up for yourself and other volunteers. And why is an organic farm using chemicals?

  4. LASH

    Hi Stephen. THanhks for reading. Thanks for your imput, too. What stories have you heard about WWOOF? good? bad? I wonder about the chemicals, too, but dont' know that much about allowed practices. They do certainly need to combat downey mildew, but whether only chemicals work or not, I don't know. i was surprised at the super non-chalant attitude of the WOOF USA office about both the chemical use and my getting ill. weird! Thanks for joining in, cheers, Lash

    1. Anna

      Hi, I was treated racially in a swedish farmhouse via workaway.info. Also the work agreed had nothing to do with house restoration (where I feel more comfortable and creative) but in something I had clearly said to my host I am not happy to do (farming). The work was indeed 5 hours but spread out with many breaks that the host demanded it ended up feeling whole day work. The payment was a swim in the sea at the end of the day but after many verbal slures, while working, all day long, against my ethnical background, I had to resign after 2 days there.

      The host has 17 or so positive references on her profile and I felt my own negative wont convince anyone and because I knew she will make it seem i am a lazy person who di dnothing, I chose not to leave on her profile anything (also cause she was aggressive and I dont know what shes capable of doing to me cause she asked me where I live back home and generally tried to find info on me), so I instead sent a letter to the workaway staff about it.

      They never replied. I wonder why cause I had tried calmly to express my concern over racial comments and personal attacks during farming work (never had agreed to do farming in the first place) and everything was not as described except that 5 hours indeed was the work time (but spread out with breaks the host decided, it ended up 7 hours, I prefer working 5 hours with small breaks so that I have the afternoon free, the host wanted to control the volunteers’ life in essence).

      I am not sure why workaway thinks its a taboo answering to my email/report for this host. I sadly assume, that they won’t believe someone with zero refs on her profile, over a host with over 15 positive refs on her profile. But is this fair? What if the things I say happened to me, really happened? Why are they deciding arbitrarily that whoever doesn’t have refs is the equivalent of a scam? Maybe the hosts who gets intiially some good refs,t then relax and start behaving awry to the next volunteer, assured by their initial great refs? What if SOME HOSTS ABUSE THE SYSTEM OF GOOD REFS, once they get a couple or 10 good refs, they start abusing the volunteers?

  5. Leigh

    Bethany at Beers and Beans has written about her experiences – which sounded very positive. I wouldn't work 72 hours a week for room and board unless I was starving & desperate.
    You've written a very thorough article – which should help many other potential wwoofers. Well done.

  6. LASH

    Hi Leigh,
    Yeah, I noticed that Beth has done some WWOOFing over in Italy and had a grand time. I also had several great experiences in Australia. THanks for stopping by. Yeah, I hope this will help people set up their volunteer gigs better than I did.lol cheers, Lash

  7. Barry - WorldlyNomads

    Another great article Lash! Timely as well as we are considering WWOOFFing in South America towards the end of this year, I will take your advice as a crib sheet for our discussions with them. Were considering a week WWOOFing, do you think thats too short? I assume that will reduce our options on where to go…

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Thanks BArry.
      I had great WWOOF experiences in Australia, as I mentioned.
      But looking through the USA and South American WWOOF farm listings, it seems pretty common for them to expect WWOOFers to work like slaves- like 8-12 hour days, 6 days/week! In my opinion, that is NOT a fair exchange of labor for room and board. It’s totally nuts and I wouldn’t do it. About WWOOFing for just one week- each farm has a different minimum stay period. You’ll find some places that are fine with one week. Other options for cheap travel are couch surfing and tripping.com Shoot me an email or comment if you have any other Qs. cheers, Lash

  8. Mike

    All my wwoofing experiences turned out badly. Needless to say, overworking the wwoofer was a constant. Always over the stipulated amount even when previously negotiated. One host removed their hours from their page after another wwoofer complained. Now you can´t complain about their posted hours…

    Bad living conditions were also common, from marauding poisonous spiders to filthy, dusty and cold rooms or shared spaces with no privacy (the whole family, dogs and lamb in the room with poop on the floor) and messy beyond belief.

    Food rationing, or poor food was also the norm, except in one place, where in exchange you worked 10-12 hours a day and had to stomach the host talking down to you and behaving mordantly towards everybody, including his wife. In another the host was constantly snapping at everybody. Generally you never felt part of anything but the endless chores and really did not have time for yourself.

    I think most disturbing was that I felt no gratitude towards us at all. There was no real wish to teach anything in a meaningful way; they just wanted us to work as much as possible.

    My recommendation is to please choose a volunteer program where hosts and visitors are mutually reviewed on their sites.

    I am quite suprised that many wwoofers in Finland complained about their other Finnish wwoof hosts (they visited more than one) and they were quite simply fed up and looking forward to going back home.

    I don´t blame them!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Mike,

      Wow, sorry you’ve had so many bad WWOOF experiences! May I ask where they were?
      Luckily for me, this was the only bad experience I’ve hadd WOOFing. I did notice on the WWOOF USa website many hosts who seemed to be taking advantage of the situation to get free full time manual farm labor. More alarmingly, the WWOOOF USA office is ALLOLWING this! Which means it must be ok with them. YIKES! My brother reckons that WWOOF USA is being run by Right-wingers, like the TEa BAggers…could be!

      All the WWOOFing gigs I did in Australia were GREAT! all the hosts were polite, respectful, laid-back, not pushy, and stuck to their agreed working hours, which were 4-5 hours/day 5-6 day/week…. just like teh WOOOF guidelines say!

      After those experiences, I was completely shocked and disgusted at the US Farm. I’ve since had a guy contact me who used to work for that WWOOF host, and he said the guy has always been a hard ass, overworking people, and on the edge of breaking the labor laws.

      In any event, there are some good and some bad WWOOF hosts around, that’s for sure! And , as you say, it’s important to check into each farm carefully before committing or showing up!

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences! I appreciate that. cheers, Lash

      1. Mike

        Hi Lacy,

        My bad experiences were in Chile and Finland. I am Finnish and was ashamed to see Finns behaving this way, but I prefer not to name the hosts and simply send a word of caution because I truly value volunteering and sustainability.

        I am sure there are good WWOOF hosts; not having a review system is definitely hurting the effort. My next volunteer trip will be through http://www.helpx.com that I found by googling alternatives to WWOOFing. I simply will not go to another WWOOF host unless it is peer reviewed or personally recommended.

        I have come to believe that maybe too many organic farmers are too worried about making money and charging high prices for their produce. Could I be right about this relationship?

        Been thinking of creating a new volunteering service that is entirely focused on teaching new skills for free. Lodging would be for free and maybe a hat is passed for collective food making. The host and volunteer both have to teach and learn skills through workshops and the “work” done is actually during the workshop. Now that is something I would really like to do. Maybe having these bad experiences was really a good thing because it got me thinking on how to improve our volunteering experience.

        Would you be interested in something like that?

        Best wishes,

        Mike

        1. jim

          mike, thank you for sharing your experiences. Do you have an email address? I would like to talk to you more about your experiences?

          Thank you

  9. tareh

    what happened to the french gal??

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Great question!~

      I’d love to know, too! I wrote to her by email and on FB. Never heard from her again… Perhaps that’s where my dresses went?

      cheers, Lash

  10. Shannon O'Donnell

    So sorry to read about this and I remember you telling me how frustrated you were by the entire situation at the time. I hope your travels now are going well, and I really appreciate you mentioning the book!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hey Shannon,

      Great to see you here.

      YOu’re most welcome about mentioning your volunteer guidebook! I still plan to review it one day soon (among my long list of reviews to do. :( )

      Yeah, that was a real drag experience! BUt, like I said, I could have avoided it entirely by following my gut instinct beforehand and by asking even more specific Qs on the phone before I went all the way up there. Next time I”ll know. :)

      cheers, Lash

  11. dragonfly

    Lash,

    My husband and I are thinking to embark on the wwoof experience. We are sick of our desk jobs that are killing our spirit. He is an artist and a writer and I am a photographer yet we are stuck in dead end jobs not fulfilling our potential. We have been looking for alternative ways and WWoof seems like a good way to help us travel learn about organic farming and help us eventually find a place we can call home.

    Thank you so much for this post because had I not ran into your post I would have thought there were no issues within this organization.

    Do you have any tips of places where we can go and have good experience? I know each farm has different requirements and rules we were thinking to head towards the west cost any advice on a good place or a good resource for reviews?

    It has been a little scary reading some of the comments on this blog so I want to ensure we end up in a good place since we don’t have much money saved to travel to too many of them and like I said we are looking for a place to grow and find different opportunities.

    Any advice is appreciated

    p.s. I have so much respect for you and your journey good luck with everything :)

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Dragonfly,

      Yes, trying out some WWOOFing sounds great!

      Don’t get too nervous about my bad WWOOF experience. Most are good experiences. And like I explained in this post, I could have prevented even going by keeping my wits about me adn following my instincts… Such as that area of Florida is notorious for extremely conservative people. And the fact that I did’nt completley clarify everything by phone beforehand.

      So, choose an area of the STAtes where people are generally considered hip, open minded, non-conservative. And discuss everythign thoroughly with the people you contact before deciding to take an assignment.

      I’m afraid I know almost nothing about the west coast of the USA. Since I lefet in 1991, I probabaly don’t know much about anything in the USA any more.

      But, of course the areas around Seattle and POrtland are pretty hip and outdoorsy, as well as northern California.

      Wish I could give you more suggestions or advice. I think I’ve doled out all the advice I have in this article.

      Hope you go for it! And have a great time!

      cheers, Lash

  12. Rachel Vroman

    I arrived at the farm I am woofing at today. The living conditions when I drove up were making me think twice but I saw the old woman standing outside her singlewide trailer and my conscious kicked in. After touring the place and getting my bedroom situation, I knew that I had made a mistake by staying. My room smells like cat pee to the point where I cannot be in there. The house is dirty and unsanitary. Unfortunately I am leaving, even though I so badly want to do WOOFing. My aunt is coming to pick me up tonight or in the morning. Be sure when you are doing these kinds of things that you speak over the phone first and that you know up front exactly what you are coming in to.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Rachel,

      Sorry to hear about your bad WWOOFing experience! bummer.

      But thanks for sharing your story here.

      Yeah, I agree that extensive, clear phone conversations with clear, specific questions beforehand are important. Even having done that though, you could still end up in a mistake, like I did or you did. I’m pretty sure that some of these type of people – ones who aren’t upfront – might try to hide the reality of their situation to lure people in.

      the best you can do is ask and get as much clear info as possible beforehand. And, on a positive note, I’m sure MOST WWOOF hosts are really nice & upfront and offer decent conditions to WWOOF volunteers.

      I hope your next WWOOF gig is a great one!

      cheers, Lash

      1. jim

        Lash, is it possible to get your email address? I would like to hear more about your experiences for WWOOF hosts.

        1. Lash WorldTour

          Hi Jim,

          Sure. I list all sorts of ways to contact me on my ‘contact’ page here:

          http://www.lashworldtour.com/contact

          However, I’m not sure I can add much of anything to what I’ve already written in my 3 posts on WWOOFing. Those are the total of my experiences and I think I’ve pretty much said everything in those articles.

          cheers, Lash

  13. John

    Lash:

    Just found your post online and though it use to respond to the following parts:

    “The farm’s location near Tallahassee, Florida, part of America’s Bible Belt. The area is generally known by Americans as a strongly conservative, often extremely religious stronghold and an area where there have been various scandals involving child abuse and labor abuse. Only Americans would know this. Unfortunately, volunteers from other countries wouldn’t be privy to this red flag. But I’m American and I knew it.”

    1. Very kind of you to lump “conservative”, “religious” and “child abuse” in one package as if child abuse does not happen in other parts of the U.S. i.e. major metropolitan cities in the north of the U.S. or heck anywhere globally. For example British Atheist writer Richard Dawkins’ recently said that the’mild pedophilia’ he endured at boarding school in his youth ‘never did him any harm.’ Also let’s not forget Penn State and the BBC scandals.

    2. And to say “only Americans” would know about child abuse locally despite the existence of the internet, Google, and a 24 hour new cycle is a baffling position.

    I understand that you had a bad experience WWOOFing, but please try and not to stoke the fires of bigotry with inaccurate statements.

    All the best.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      HEllo John,

      Welcome. Thanks for your comments and clarifications.

      Upon re-reading my comment, I don’t think it implies that the three groups are one and the same or that they are involved with each other. I merely say that those three groups are known to exist in the region. And I do believe that statement is true.

      YEs, of course that is not hte only region in the USA or in the world with those particular issues. I’m just saying that that region is one of them.

      In any event, thanks for stopping by and adding your views.

      cheers, Lash

      1. Annette

        I, too, was offended by your comments regarding conservatives, the Bible belt and child abuse and you most definitely implied a connection between those three things AND the way you were treated at the farm. What I find even more interesting is that your response to John was similar to the response you received from wwoof regarding your experience in Florida. Sadly, not much recognition of wrong-doing on your part…

        1. Lash WorldTour

          Hi Annette,

          Welcome. Thanks for adding your views to the discussion.

          I’ve re-read my post several times. I cannot see that I’ve implied that any of those people are connected. I merely said that that region is known for all those problems. Does not at all imply they are the same people do all together.

          What type of ‘wrong doing on my part’ are you referring to?

          Best regards, Lash

  14. Heather Falenski

    Spraying chemicals? Yikes. It was my understanding that all participating farms had to be organic. It seems like this is a reason to get this farm banned from the WWOOF program, don’t you think?

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Heather,

      Yeah, I was rather surprised, too about the chemicals! I’m not an expert on the rules for WWOOF host farms, but considering the organization is World Workers on ORGANIC Farms, it seems they would require organic practices and prohibit chemical use, right?!

      In any event, this guy had me use a chemical mix with my bare hands in the baking sun and I clearly got sick from it, though he vigorously denied that.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      cheers, Lash

  15. Tristan

    Hahaha, some of these. Comments crack me up. “my brother reckons they are right wingers” because obviously nobody but the right wingers would game the system. Also let me ask you how you feel about racial profiling, I’ll bet your against it. But it is ok to profile people who live in the South.

    Haha, you hippy types are always good for a laugh.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Tristan,

      Thanks for your views. Glad you found my article amusing.

      Not right wingers because of gaming the system but because of their mentality towards workers and other attitudes.

      I certainly did not mean to profile all Southerners. I simply said that these issues are a problem in that part of the USA. That most certainly does not mean everyone living there is like that. Just some of them.

      In any event, thanks for dropping by and adding your thoughts.

      cheers, Lash

  16. wanderer

    Hi Lash – just now in a spot to start traveling again – never heard about wwoofing until tonight when looking up for ways to make traveling interesting. I usually try to look up pros and cons of everything and came across your blog on your experiences. I appreciate the heads-up, so to speak….I am open to any other ideas that make traveling a unique experience – I don’t like tourist “trap” areas. Thanks a wanderer at heart

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Wanderer,

      Welcome! Congrats on having the chance to go traveling again.

      I’m with you – I avoid tourist trap areas and activities, seeking out culture, arts and nature. I think you’ll find plenty of off-the-track activities, ideas and destinations throughout my site. Thanks for coming by.

      Feel free to ask any specific questions you might have. And…I’m starting small group tours focused on culture and nature. First one in Bali, June 2014. If you’re interested, let me know.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      cheers, Lash

  17. Merc

    Hello,
    I have been Wwoofing throughout the UK, and also had a really bad go with a host (or two actually!) A lot of it was regarding both the living conditions (house being very filthy, and the host being very aggressive and rude!)

    They also have the same thing going with the Wwoof UK site, where the host has to approve the review before being posted! It would be nice to get a real sense of other experiences instead of the few positive ones (because it is filtered it makes it hard to fully trust!)
    Though,.. a nice review can still be good to hear regardless.

    I posted my site which includes those mis-adventures.
    Hope all is well just the same!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hello Merc,

      Welcome! THanks for sharing your experiences here. Sorry to hear you had a couple bad WWOOF experiences too! Bummer. I hope you’ll have some good ones too.

      Recently I discovered and joined HelpX . com which is similar to WWOOF but the membership is for 2 years and included hosts in coutnries all over the world. It’s not just a sinlge country membership. So far, I’ve just applied to hosts in NZ, but they’ve been really receptive. Most have replied to my applications, even if only to say they’re sorry they can’t take me! I really appreciate getting a reply one way or the other. So, tnus far, I’m much more impressed with HelpX than WWOOF, where many hosts nevery even reply. Let’s see what the people and condtioins are like when I get to NZ! You can follow my reports under my New Zealand section on this site if your’e interested. cheers, Lash

  18. Kirk Stivers

    I used to have a W.W.O.O.F. farm. I had a volunteer try and steal my car, others didn’t want to do anything except drink alcohol and do drugs, many were looking for a free place to stay while the traveled. I feel couch surfing and warm shower may have served them well. If someone really wants to learn how to farm there are farms that require a 6 month commitment and up to 3 year commitments. That is what it takes to really know your stuff either that or go spend $50,000+ on an agricultural degree. I had many good volunteers, but on the other hand all to often the others were misguided youths lost in the wind. W.W.O.O.F. has precise guidelines from their website of what to expect it just takes some work to find the facts and not all the farms follow the guidelines. Oh, one particular sleeze bag lady ran off with a renter and accused me of sexually harassing her. She was collecting unemployment in San Francisco from a job where she accused someone of sexual harassment. She was working for the guy she ran off getting paid off the books and was collecting unemployment. All I can say is W.W.O.O.F. isn’t worth it from a farmers experience.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hello Kirk,

      Welcome! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences of WWOOF from a host’s perspective.

      Sheesh, I’m sorry to hear you had so many bad WWOOFers and freeloaders! And stealing your things! Wow, that’s super bad.

      I agree with you – if someone really wants to learn farming then WWOOF could be a great way to learn it.

      But I do think some WWOOF hosts who are serious farmers are either confused about the WWOOF concept or else are intentionally taking advantage of volunteers, if they expect them to work 10-12 hour days, every day.

      I understand that farming is very hard work and that farmers work their tails off. But volunteers who go to farms as WWOOF should not be expected to work like that! It’s supposed to be a fair exchange of labor for food and accommodation. In my opinion, 4 hours per day work is a fair exchange.

      Working full time or 10-12 hours per day is worth much more than simply room and board. Farmers who want full time laborers should be paying them wages, in my opinion, not expecting free full time labor.

      So I’m wondering about the volunteers you had that you found to be lazy. Were they working 4-5 hours per day?

      And the volunteers you found to be good ones, how many hours per day were they working?

      Curious about your perspectives.

      thanks for stopping by.

      cheers, Lash

  19. Juana Hernandez

    Hi Lash, I’ve never done WWOOFing but I’m very eager to travel the world and I was interested in the trip you’re planning!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Juana,

      All of my WWOOF and HelpX gigs have been great… except this one! So usually they are really fun, interesting and worthwhile.

      Which of my trips are you talking about? I am currently in New Zealand, doing several helpX gigs (same as WWOOF). I’ll be writing about my experiences soon. So stay tuned!

      cheers, Lash

  20. Andie

    Hi Lash,

    I want to thank you so much for posting this and sharing so many detailed aspects of your life with WWOOF. I’m planning to go WWOOFing for about half a year to the USA and like you, I like to believe what people tell me and am sometimes a bit naive ;)
    Anyway, your blog has really helped me so far with planning my trip, so thank you again, you really seem to be a wonderful person!

    Greetings from Austria :)

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Andie,

      Welcome!

      Oh, awesome – i’m glad this post and my site have been so useful to you. I’d like to note that aside from this one super-bad WWOOF experience, all my other ones were great. I’ve also talked to several people who have WWOOFed in the USA and had great experiences. Overall, it usually works very well.

      enjoy your trip to the USA! And greetings from New ZEaland!

      cheers, Lash

  21. Corie

    Hi :) I am scheduled to go on my first WWOOFing endeavor in about 2 weeks….it is in my home state, however I am a young female, and am having trouble finding a travel buddy. I am having some anxious feelings, but I can’t quite tell if it’s my gut telling me not to go, or if I am simply nervous/excited. No noticeable red flags as of now. I have been contacting the farm via Email, and they gave me their phone number. My dad and boyfriend are nervous about me going so perhaps their paranoia is rubbing off on me (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). I am just beginning to think that WWOOF is a big scam and I should not have put so much personal information out there :/ any feedback or advice would be appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Corie,

      So sorry it’s taken me this long to reply! I hope I”m not too late to add my 2 cents.

      Well, knowing what to say about your nervous feelings and your family’s feelings is a bit hard…

      On the one hand, in case you’re not aware, we Americans are taught subliminally our whole lives to be afraid! Afraid of people, afraid of new places & experiences. Americans are pretty darn nervous and scared about letting new people into their homes/properties and also going to strangers’ houses. Much more so than in many other countries. So to some extent, all the nervousness is just from US propaganda / brain washing.

      On the other hand, there are a lot of kooks in the US, and bad things do happen. So there is, in fact, sometimes reasons to be cautious.

      I definitely do not believe WWOOF is a scam. There are thousands of well-meaning hosts and volunteers joining together every day. I know of several other travelers who have done WWOOF gigs in the US and had fantastic times. I was just super unlucky to find one of the A-holes. :((

      I think probably the best way to judge a potential WWOOF host is by reviews left by other volunteers. If there are good reviews, the hosts are probably great. Also, communicating with the hosts beforehand usually gives you a great idea of who they are.. though not always, as I found out and wrote about here.

      The good thing is that 1. your dad & brother know where you’re going and have address & phone no. Right? and 2. it’s not far from your home. 3. If worse comes to worst and you hate it, you can always leave, just like I did.

      I seriously doubt you’ll get into more trouble than ending up in a place you dislike. I don’t think you have to worry about, say physical abuse, rape or murder! WWOOF IS a long-standing, international organization. The hosts have their photos and personal info online. And you’ve communicated with them. so, like I said, the worst than would happen is you don’t like it and you leave. No biggie, right?

      In any event, you’ll probably have a great time.

      Please stop by here later and tell me how it’s going! cheers, Lash

    2. syer

      hye. i’m syahirah from Malaysia :) i’m looking for travel partner too. but it’s hard for me to find the suitable places and the accommodations. i thought i wanna go to Australia or Norway. can u suggest which one is better?

      1. Lash WorldTour

        Hi Syahirah,

        Salamat datang ke LashWorldTour!

        Dont’ worry about traveling solo, it’s fine!

        As for which country is best for you to travel to – Australia or Norway -that’s really a personal decision for you. It depends on what you like to see & do, what kind of weather you like, which months you can travel, how much money you can spend, etc.

        I recommend that you read up on both countries – costs, what to see & do, where to go, hostels & hotels, etc – And then see which one sounds more appealing to you.

        both are safe for you to travel through alone, so don’t worry about that.

        I hope that’s helpful!

        cheers, Lash

  22. Mishelle

    Hi Lash, so appreciate your article and how fantastic you’ve carved out this unique living/working experience for yourself! As a world wanderer myself back in my youth, I can really appreciate the challenges and rewards.

    Now though we are settled and self-sufficient, though not yet selling anything, but we have considered becoming hosts in future. The thing is I’m having a hard time finding similarly critical articles looking at the experience from the other side. I know few people with a similar work ethic and I can imagine the time I spend teaching them, cooking for them and entertaining them with visits in the community, etc. (as the WWOOF suggests) would hardly be worth the effort.

    Have you written any articles interviewing what makes it worth it for the hosts, especially when inviting unskilled labor onto one’s property? Or do you know any other resources for learning more (other than the glowing experiences reported on the WWOOF site)? Right now we have a young relative here who was interested in WWOOF but asked to come here instead–it takes him 3 hours to do what I can do in 1. I feel like his host mom and serving him as he expects to be fed and housed for such a minimal contribution.

    Any thoughts, resources or advice would be very appreciated.
    cheers
    Mishelle

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Mishelle,

      Welcome!

      Great, glad this article was useful to you. :)

      If you want to get more candid views on experiences from volunteers; perspectives and from hosts perspectives, I suggest you join WWOOF and HElpX then read through the reviews left by 1. hosts on various volunteers and 2. volunteers on various hosts. That should give you a clear picture of things.

      EAch org also has tips aimed at both hosts and volunteers on how to have a great experience, do’s, don’t’s and so on.

      Perhaps you could also contact other experienced hosts in those orgs and ask them your Qs.

      I have never hosted anyone, since I dont’ live anywhere, so I haven’t written on things from the hosts’ perspective. Sorry about that.

      Two things I can suggest for you, though:

      1. You can choose WHO comes to volunteer at your place. Thousands of volunteers are looking for hosts. All of them have certain skills. Choose people who are already skilled & experienced in the tasks you need done. That way you shouldn’t have to spend so much time training, supervising, and so on. Don’t invite people who are super young and skill-less if you don’t want to spend so much time training and taking care of them. YOu can find volunteers who have the skills you require, who are independent workers who don’t need supervision, and who have good work ethics. Chose them. There are also freeloaders. Avoid them.

      2. A lot of it is your own attitude. If you don’t want to spend so much time and effort with volunteers who come, then you don’t have to! You don’t HAVE TO tell them all about your area, chauffeur them around, and so on. That’s just an optional choice, if you want to. Or not. You’re not obligated to do all that extra stuff. The basic core exchange is: they work, you provide room & board. Anything else is over & beyond.

      In addition, you don’t HAVE TO cook for them either. If you prefer, just provide the food and let them cook for themselves.

      So, you see, you can set things up in whatever way works best for you. There’s no need for you to spend so much time training, supervising, looking after, cooking for and entertaining people. If you’re doing that but you don’t want to then either 1. you’re choosing the wrong people to your place or 2. you maybe need to adjust your attitude for yourself on what YOU need to do?

      Hope all of that helps you out!

      And if you decide to start hosting people, let me know. I most definitely do NOT need supervision, looking after or lead around the area. I have many skill sets that dont’ require training – in fact, I’ve found that most people who’ve invited me to work for them know a lot less about teh jobs at hand than I do. :)) See…. these are the kind of people you could invite to help you out.

      cheers, Lash

  23. Guilherme Weinschütz

    Hello Lash! What a good way to describe, congratulations :)

    I’m from Brazil and I’ll go to my first adventure outside my country and the first country will be Argentina! After will be Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. And looking for some ways to travel with low budget I just found WWOOF. My first impression about was completely awesome and I thought that was just wonders hahahahaha Your experiences helped to care about my trip and I’m sending new e-mails to the hosts asking a lot of questions.

    As soon as I finish my experience, I’ll post a testmonial :)

    Regards from Brazil!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hello Guilherme,

      Welcome!

      Great, I’m glad this post helped you prepare for your WWOOF experiences!

      Nowadays, I like HelpX much better than WWOOF! It’s basically the same, but a different organization online. On HelpX I find the hosts reply about 80-90%. And they usually don’t ask you to work too too much, like some WWOOF hosts do.

      Also, HelpX is much cheaper! When you join, you get to see hosts in ALL countries around the world! With WWOOF, you have to join for each country! If you’re going to many countries, it’s expensive.

      You can see what I wrote about HelpX so far here: http://www.lashworldtour.com/category/adventures/wwoof

      Thanks for stopping by! Hey, and good luck with your exciting travel adventures in S AMerica! Salut!

      cheers, Lash

  24. Hannah

    I would love to speak with you more about Wwoofing and traveling in general. Please let me know, I look forward to it. Thank you for sharing your experience. ♡

    1. Lash WorldTour

      hi Hannah,

      Welcome!

      Ok, sure. You can send me an email to start with.

      cheers, Lash

  25. Melody

    Thank you so much for your brave and honest review. One of the parts which appals me most is how the representatives of the WWOOF USA organization have (not) responded to your story. This is the same experience I’ve had at WWOOF Canada. I’ve made a blog to talk about my experiences: posted as my “website”, above.

    Cheers, and best of luck in the future!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      hi Melody,

      Thanks for stoppping by and for adding your experiences.

      Wow, that’s terrible to hear that WWOOF Canada has also not responded in a supportive manner to volunteers who have bad experiences on their farms! So bad. That’s what really turned me off to WWOOF USA, on top of the horrible experience I had.

      Happily, I have not had those kinds of bad experiences in other countries using WWOOF or HelpX. Well, I did have one semi bad experience with a WWOOF host in Australia. Basically, she was a workaholic and expected volunteers to be also. It seems to be a problem among some WWOOF hosts, more so than with HelpX.

      I’ve found much better experiences overall with HelpX – which I joined in New ZEaland and Australia. Hosts are more responsive to applications and much less prone to expect too much work/take advantage of volunteers. Check it out!

      Thanks for sharing your website here for anyone else who has bad WWOOF experiences. I hope there aren’t too many!

      chees, Lash

  26. Adrian

    I want to post about my negative experiences with wwoofusa too. However i want to start out saying my first woof gig was just wonderful, I was treated like family, learned lots, had a reasonable amount of work. I still keep in contact with them and I’ve told them all about what happened. I won’t list names with my bad woof experiences because in one case they simply worked too hard, with baby and full time jobs and a farm, they just didn’t have it thought out about having a woofer. The other expected 10 hour days like you mentioned, but their hospitality was without par. Anyway,

    -I went to a place I had planned to go to like 3 or 4 months in advance. W’d talked a lot on the phone, they seemed really neat. I’d emailed a couple times with the odd question. I still showed up and they didn’t have a bed set up for me in the separate cabin I was going to stay in. I had a couch that was too short for me in an open basement.
    -There were no doors inside the house as it was an incomplete homestead, this would be fine if i wasn’t scolded for using their upstairs shower. I was expected to use their guest shower, right in front of the front door, with some opaque curtains in the doorway.
    -They barely spoke to me before heading out to work in the morning and before bed at night, I was given barely any work and then treated like a freeloader. I offered to do housework but they insisted I didn’t have to, (their sink was overflowing with dishes despite my best efforts)
    -I went to another place where the workload was like 10 hours a day as you describe, but it was mostly that he didn’t count maple syrupping, which I did all day, as work. Let me describe this, I’d sit by the rig, throwing wood into the fire and skimming the sap at 5 minute or less intervals for 4 or 5 hours till lunch, then after until sunset or even into the night. There’s also gathering more sap, cutting away weeds in the forest, and chopping more wood. For 10 hours. Its far more energy intensive than cashiering for 10 hours and I actually got paid for that.
    -I still helped with housework and cleaning, though I was scolded for washing dishes incorrectly. He was saying things like if I’d only ever used a dishwasher before. A red flag that he hadn’t even read my woof profile which had a glowing review including my skill at housework.
    -I wasn’t taught anything besides the syrupping. I was treated like I was too clumsy and careless to use tools that were around, like large gardening shears. I was clumsy from exhaustion and he didn’t listen when I said something was too heavy for me to lift.
    -I was told I had to do more work to do something like take a weekend off (on top of the 10 hour days). I had picked this farm because it was near a train line so I could visit family nearby once I’d settled in.
    -I hit the visited farm button on both these places, but never commented. I still got a nasty email from the syrupping place, copied to wwoof usa about how I was lazy and clumsy and not to post any comment I had for them because I was a terrible worker. He made it clear he had no respect for me. I had respect for him before he sent that email. I hit visited button because I wanted to be connected to those farms so people could ask me about them even if i wouldn’t comment.

    I’m open to questions about all this, I think this article is excellent for avoiding trouble, personally my main thing is just to only go places with reviews or failing that, a strong online presence, a decent amount of information about them out there. I’m still woofing, I’m passionate about farming, its a good way to travel and learn. I’d be really hesitant to woof abroad, but if its still in the US, I’m an adult, a week of lousy woofing isn’t the end of the world, I always have money and know how to leave and I have family to help if I’m still in a bind.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Adrian,

      Welcome!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing your WWOOF experiences, both good and bad, here. Sorry you were treated so poorly in places. That sucks.

      I suggest you not be too nervous to try WWOOFing over seas! I’ll bet you’ll have better experiences than in the USA. Sadly in the US, there’s a LOT of aggression, negative energy, poor inter-personal skills and messed up relationships. I’m not saying every American has these issues, but a much higher percentage than in other countries I’ve traveled in. Particularly in New Zealand and Australia – for western coutnries – the people are much calmer and mature with inter-personal relations than Americans, in general.

      So I believe that a lot of the problems with WWOOF farm in the US are because of those issues. And farmers, being so busy, do tend to take advantage of volunteers and/or just expect everyone to work as hard as they do because that’s all they know and believe in.

      If you want a more fair exchange of labor for room & board, I suggest you sign up with HelpX . com I’ve found most of the hosts a lot more reasonable and fair.

      In any event, thanks again for stopping by and sharing your experiences.

      cheers, lash

  27. Gaston Fernandez, WWOOF Chile manager

    I´m sorry by the bad experiences posted here, but please don´t forget that mostly of wwoof experiences are nice and commented in the webs also. Southamerica is very diverse, their wwoof organizations also are . I know that wwoof in Argentina and Chile are good managed and each manager is warning to each wwoofer new.

  28. Tess

    Just read a suggestion in AARP magazine about trying WWOOF for cheap travel. When I search online I always add “complaint” or “problem” if those results don’t come up, and I would suggest doing that for the particular farms, too. Also ask who they sell to, and contact that place. (An organic farm can’t spray bleach on plants! Pyrethrins are organic but toxic and require protection.) Asking the farmer anything is pretty pointless because if they’re liars, they will just lie again, so it is essential that the “parent” organization does some enforcing, and WWOOF seems unwilling to do that. Without that, the whole thing is dangerous on many levels, for the workers and for the farmers. If someone doesn’t have family or friends, they could just disappear. A farm couple in my state used transients for cheap labor – then murdered them! I’m glad to hear you’ve found a better group, because in theory this would be a win-win situation. (I’ve been invited to spend two weeks volunteering in Guatemala and it would “only” cost me $4000 – plus shots!)
    Thanks for speaking up about something that is just not right. I wish everyone would!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Tess,

      Welcome!

      Thanks for taking time to add your suggestions, experiences and views. Yes, the more people pitching in, the better.

      cheers, Lash

  29. Ryan

    No one should be working as a volenteer on a profit based farming operation ! There just useing you as free labour if your doing this your likely not worrying about income for a few weeks just getting and “experance” some proople rely on jobs on farm to earn an income and City slickers willing to work for free for some kind of strange fantasy experance of working in the bush lowers lowers there worth to 0 !

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hello Ryan,

      Welcome!

      Thanks for stopping by and adding your perspectives. Much appreciated.

      cheers, Lash

  30. Lisa

    I have a similar experience. I’m doing volunteer graphic design work for an environmental non-profit organization and they had me sign a contract. It stated that I had to do 5-10 hours of work per week or so and that if I quit after finishing a project, I could be sued, even though I’m planning to quit. Oh and by the way, did the organization or company you were volunteering for find this post on your blog? Have they threatened to sue you? I didn’t want to post the name of the organization in the comment section of this post that I’m volunteering with because I was afraid they would find out and sue me.

  31. Elizabeth

    Hi there,

    Thanks for this post, this was very informative for me. A quick question: speaking as a woman, there is always concern about the potential for assault. Do you know anyone who has had experiences with assault in WWOOF, and if they have mentioned any red flags to the potential for it? Thank you!

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Welcome!

      I’m happy to say that I’ve never heard of any cases of assault with WWOOF or any other work exchange organizations. That doesn’t mean that it has never happened, of course. But I think it would be very difficult for any host to get away with that in this day & age of user reviews and the ability to report offenders to the organizations as well. In addition, most hosts and volunteers involved in these groups are really nice, decent people.

      Happy volunteering!

      cheers, Lash

  32. Matheus

    Hi, Lash. I found out about WWOOF yesterday and did like the concept of it – you travel, learn and help in exchange for a roof over your head and food. Amazing! Then I went to read about it from the perspective of some travelers – which is how I got here – and kabam! The magic of the nice world where people help each other with genuinely good feelings was gone. Well, there are many people who had amazing experiences WWOOFing, like you, but there are many others who experienced a true nightmare, like you. It makes me wonder whether I should give it a try or if I should travel like a normal tourist, that is, go to a hotel and visit the most known places without immersing into the culture and living like a native. Well, that does not excite me. Since I have a long time to plan about it cautiously, I think WWOOF might be an option to consider despite the bad comments about it.

    Thank you for sharing it. The good experiences you had with WWOOF are still quantitatively more than the bad ones. That is good sign.

    1. Lash WorldTour

      Hi Matheus,

      Welcome!

      I think you hit the nail on the head on 2 counts:

      1. Most WWOOF experiences are really great, but you could run into a bad situation here or there.

      My suggestions on how to avoid bad experiences should keep you out of trouble most times.

      2. Yep, you have to decide for yourself if you want to give it a try or not! You’ll only find out by trying it. :)

      Good luck and happy trails!

      cheers, Lash

  33. John

    A short note I just wrote to WWOOF Canada explaining our position spurred by there “new” terms and conditions, I must add I don’t think we fell into the “horror story” classification:-)

    “We have been hosting wwoofers for 15 years. Over this time we have had the pleasure to meet many kind, interesting people, out of these maybe half were helpful to the point where it was actually beneficial to us. I am not saying we are the ¨perfect¨ hosts and we do accept some responsibility for the poorer experiences, but in the end it is our home we invite these people into , so I would suggest the onus is on the visitor to ¨fit in¨ .

    I think the position WWOOF canada is taking with the new (to me) terms and conditions is only further exasperates the situation by giving the wwoofer unrealistic expectations as to hours of work ,time off and number of meals (ie snacks)
    The help provided must outweigh the expense and loss of privacy .

    Most of these young people that we have had lately have no practical skill set, everything must be taught and this requires time and patience, add on top the broken tools ,equipment , injured animals and the growing grocery bill and it quickly becomes a losing proposition.
    For the host it is important for the wwoofer to understand ,while it is important to respect one another , it is not an “equal” “on par” relationship , there must be a “boss” or nothing will get done,
    Anyway your new (to me) “terms and conditions” contradict these points and in my view make it too difficult to have a good productive wwoofing host experience .

    I do believe these policies will be the downfall of the wwoof program , sad to see it go”

  34. Goldie

    Thank you so much for sharing your story!! Is there an outlet I can contact you more on? I really would like to speak to people about their farm stay experience and more ins and outs! I really appreciate your honesty and I have been looking to see what people’s true experiences are before I start a farm stay. I didn’t want to buy a membership to speak to people just in case I don’t do it. Any who, is there a way I could discuss with you further? Thank you!!

  35. Sherri

    Hi Lash. So nice to find another candid soul out there on the web! ;)

    My husband and I had a very negative experience a few years ago at a place called the Solar Ark in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, USA. I blogged about the experience afterward, which incurred the wrath of a couple of people who interned there long-term… and had to actually change my comments settings to moderate them first, to prevent any more nastiness from appearing. =:-O

    We also got several pre-trip and upon-arrival red flags, which we also naively ignored since we had ourselves convinced we could deal with whatever weirdness we encountered, in order to learn all the amazing things we were told (by the owner and his website) we would be learning, in exchange for our help.

    Unfortunately, it was a total “bait and switch” and we ended up staying six days (after purchasing and fixing up an older RV, and then driving 2200 miles to get there from Florida!), rather than the six months we’d planned. While my blog post about our experience has gotten a decent number of page views– which I hope is providing a “heads-up” to anyone considering going to the Solar Ark–, I am still dismayed that there is no centralized, independent/unaffiliated website where people can post their reviews of work-trade experiences freely.

    I have thought about establishing such a site myself, especially since the Solar Ark was just the first of many bad experiences we had, before scrapping our whole mission of work-trading to learn about sustainable living. :{ I just haven’t had the time (since the reviews would have to be moderated for things like inappropriate language and “flaming”), but perhaps someone out there (one of your readers?) would… so I just wanted to float this idea.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts and perhaps even getting a reply! ;)

  36. Lash WorldTour

    Hey Keith,

    Thanks much for including me in your article. Yes, best to know the potential problems and how to avoid them.

    I’m at least happy to say that that was my only bad WWOOF experience. The others have been mostly great.

    Thanks again, cheers, Lash

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