New Zealand – A Willing Worker on Organic Farms

Extended travel can be quite pricey unless you properly consider some low-cost alternatives. And if you have the time, why not?

One such alternative is being a willing worker on organic farms (a.k.a. WWOOFing).

New Zealand has a characteristic passion for alternative and sustainable lifestyles. Not to mention lush soil for growing all sorts of goodness. Together, this makes it a hotbed of WWOOFing activity. The deal is 4-6 hours of work a day for accommodation and food. Days off are negotiated depending on the host, nature of the work, and length of stay.

I first heard about WWOOFing from friends. After doing a little research on my own, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

I grew up in a city. Despite my deep connection with the outdoors, my experience growing food, caring for animals, or maintaining a property was limited. So I figured it couldn’t hurt to push my boundaries and learn some new stuff. 

And what was the first experience on a farm like for a city dweller, you ask? Well! Let me tell you:

Gisborne is a beautiful town on the east coast of New Zealand. It has beautiful beaches and rolling hills. I would absolutely go back if I return to New Zealand one day. And if you’re in the area around New Years, they have the biggest party in the country since they are touched by the first light of every day, and consequently each year.

The first host I stayed with was a single man in his 50’s who owned a beautiful piece of land just outside of Gisborne that he’d been cultivating for over 15 years. The property sported over 20 acres, 5 horses, a herd of dairy cows, and an infinite amount of landscaping, house, gardening, and farm work.

What I learned from this experience is that cows are quite capable of finding fresh grass if you leave a gate open, which saves you time herding them from pen to pen. They also love music and to follow things/beings that move.

“Fred! Fred! Where are you going, Fred! Gotta catch up, gotta catch up, gotta catch up…music? Grass, grass, grass.”

Berries are wonderful to grow if you have the space. They’re awesome fresh, frozen, and preserved. Jams make great gifts, and if you have enough yield you could even sell small batches.

Wandering bamboo, while great for landscaping projects, gets out of hand quite easily. So if you don’t have a consistent demand, avoid it. Otherwise, you will loose space rather quickly.

Weeding is a necessary evil. It’s important to take the time to get the roots out properly or you’ll be back at it in the same area before you know it. Excess wood and removed weeds can be thrown in a pile to ferment for a bit before being used around newly housed plants.

Singing to plants while working with them is hilarious and I’m convinced effective. Here’s the song I came up with:

Happy little plants,
what are you eating?
Grow strong and free
in the breeze.

While I met and worked with some interesting humans, I should not have stayed at this farm the moment after I started to feel uncomfortable.

Even if it means the awkward situation of asking the host who makes you uncomfortable for a ride back to town so you can figure something else out. Life happens wherever you are, whatever adventure you’re on. The resiliency you develop in dealing with these situations head on is something that will benefit you in every area of your life.

One individual does not define the many, and most of the time when you take a chance it pays off. Those stories, however, are for another day.

Words, done. Pictures!