Walk into the house of Daufuskie Community Farm‘s general manager and you’ll see an unlikely sight. 77 year-old Pat Beichler shares her home with a horde of farm volunteers called “WWOOFers”. WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organization that pairs willing volunteers with organic farms all over the United States. WWOOFers (farm volunteers) usually work 20-30 hours a week in exchange for food and housing provided by the host farm. It’s a way to travel, learn about sustainability, and meet interesting people without the logistical & financial concerns of housing and food. You simply work to live.
Pat built her house 18 years ago (at the age of 60) about a half-mile down the road from the farm. A couple of years ago she decided to move out of her self-built home and into a little shed in the backyard. She liked the privacy of living away from the bustling house, and decided that WWOOFers could stay in her house instead.
For a downsized experience, WWOOFers have the option to stay in the “gypsy caravan” which is located on the farm. Dan and Brian (pictured below) called the gypsy caravan home during their month-long stay on the island.
Some WWOOFers bring their home with them. Matt and Anna Clark barged over their cargo-trailer-turned-tiny-home earlier this fall, and expect to stay until March 2017. They use the animal pasture as their front lawn, and enjoy the company of geese and goats as neighbors.
WWOOFing is for everybody; both old and young. 18-year old Farley Hammond, Daufuskie WWOOFer, explains why this is a special way to live:
I love WWOOFing because it expands your horizons in a way that no other form of travel can. Staying in a big city, taking guided tours, and enjoying a fancy hotel is one thing; but meeting the people and animals that support the local community, and having your own hand in cultivating both physical and metaphorical growth, is another. I chose to WWOOF because I wanted to choose a more raw, involved, and radically different experience from daily life.
Of course, everybody loves getting to know the friendly goats on the farm, especially the babies! This year the kids needed more care than ever. Two young goats broke their legs and needed daily attention and care. A pair of sisters lost their mother and had to be bottle-fed throughout their upbringing. This is usually the WWOOFers’ favorite aspect of the job!
Overall, the WWOOFers bring some much-needed young energy to the farm and to the island in general. They mill lumber, construct buildings, design and implement permaculture landscape, muck stalls, feed the animals, pull up weeds, and more.
What’s so great about WWOOFing specifically at Daufuskie Community Farm? Courtney, a New York office worker turned WWOOFer, explains her experience:
On Daufuskie, everybody knows everybody and the whole island greets each other with a smile. Doors are left unlocked, bartering and work / trade is a real form of currency, and the residents all have a unique and friendly disposition to both local islanders and visiting tourists. I’ve never before encountered such hospitality from strangers.
Courtney, who grew up in the suburbs of New York, was getting tired of her 9-5 office life and turned to WWOOFing as a way out. “I’d always been infatuated with agriculture and farming but never had the opportunity to immerse myself,” she says. Courtney is not alone; many WWOOFers at the community farm have left their financially-secure career life to explore a new way of living.
“In our culture it is the norm to work forty-plus hours a week at a job you are not necessarily passionate about”, one WWOOFer says. “You then use your paycheck to buy food that has been shipped from all over the country. This lifestyle doesn’t make sense to me.” In the WWOOFing world, you put in physical work to help create the food and goods you need to survive. Plenty of WWOOFers take side jobs during their stay, and they end up leaving more financially secure than when they came.
More importantly, though, WWOOFers leave with a greater understanding of their role within the world’s ecosystem. WWOOFing is growing in popularity every year, and some hope this reflects a global mindshift in which we become connected to the food systems that sustain us.