Please read all of the following information before applying to become a WWOOF UK host.
As soon as possible after you have filled in all your details, our Host Contact will be in touch with you to discuss becoming a host and all the implications for you and the WWOOFers before you join. Occasionally we may also arrange to visit a prospective host. Meanwhile, here are some general points you might want to think about.
- In return for a reasonable day’s help (we suggest between 25 and 30 hours in a week, with suitable breaks during the day) on your farm or holding, you provide volunteers with meals throughout their stay, basic accommodation which is clean, warm in winter and dry during rain, and an opportunity to learn new skills by working alongside you.
- If the accommodation will be shared you should indicate this on your description and in initial contacts with WWOOFers. Short-term WWOOFers are expected to bring a sleeping bag but long term WWOOFers should be provided with bedding. Volunteers are also told to bring towels, appropriate outdoor clothing, boots, gloves etc. They are expected to offer to help with domestic routines such as washing up.
- The relationship between you and WWOOFers, it is hoped, should be more akin to ‘a friend of the family’ rather than that of employer and employee. If you have a set of house rules or anything you would like volunteers to know about your household, it is a good idea to produce a small document which can be sent out to them or given on arrival.
- You should not pay WWOOFers for their help within the terms of their volunteering. Sometimes international WWOOFers have been misled by information ‘on the grapevine’. Simply explain to them WWOOFing is purely an exchange. Whilst we expect volunteers to do whatever needs doing, we ask that whenever possible they are given a variety of tasks and opportunities to learn something of the skills and techniques involved in organic growing. If the weather is unsuitable for outdoor tasks then we hope you will have some indoor jobs for them to do.
- Some WWOOFers have little or no experience and so it is a good to talk over what you will be doing in detail before commencing. It is also helpful to volunteers if they can work alongside you for at least some of the time. You’ll need patience and good humour, and should not give too much responsibility too early. On the other hand there will be some very skilled and experienced helpers who will immediately be a great asset. Some have been raised on farms themselves. If you have specific skill needs you can make this known through your description.
- WWOOF UK cannot condone the breaking of national laws or the misuse of substances or alcohol. WWOOF UK reserves the right to cancel a membership registration immediately if we believe the member’s actions may bring the name of WWOOF UK into disrepute.
WWOOF UK Host Eligibility and Organic Guidelines
To be a WWOOF host, a key part of your lifestyle or organisational mission should be:
- the production of food or other products derived from the natural world, or
- the management of land in an environmentally sustainable way, or
- an activity supporting organic growing
WWOOF hosts should follow the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) organic principles as listed below, but need not be registered with a certificating organisation.
- The Principle of Health: organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal human and planet as one and indivisible
- The Principle of Ecology: organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them
- The Principle of Fairness: organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities
- The Principle of Care: organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment
One of the main aims of WWOOF is to give people the opportunity to gain experience in organic methods, we expect these methods and principles to be predominant on WWOOF farms and holdings or for an active conversion programme to be in progress.
All WWOOFers who are currently members are given the host list either electronically or in the form of a book. Volunteers then apply directly to you if they are interested in coming to your farm and it is up to you to negotiate the dates, terms and conditions between yourselves. WWOOF main office has no further involvement (apart from the rare occasion a complaint is made).
As part of your WWOOF host application process, you will be required to fill in a declaration tick-box which states, amongst other things, that you will take out an insurance policy covering volunteers helping on your property. You may find that your existing insurance is already enough; talk to your insurer. Depending on your situation, you may find that you need Employers Liability Insurance. Again, your existing insurer may be able to help, or the NFU may be a good starting point.
WWOOFers sign an agreement to say that they will take out adequate insurance cover for health, accident, travel and liability, but main office has no way of ensuring that this commitment is fulfilled. If you have concerns about insurance, make it clear to WWOOFers that you will only accept them if they have adequate insurance. Ask to see proof of this insurance when they arrive.
Your volunteer and their membership
- If initial contact from the volunteer is by email you should arrange for them to phone you if possible, as this gives you a much better opportunity to assess whether the WWOOFer will fit in with your set-up.
- They should provide you with their five-digit membership number when they first approach you (ask them for it if they don't). Please make sure you login and check their number to confirm they are a current member. If a WWOOFer contacts you through our website contact form their email will automatically include their membership number and the status of their membership.
- If you have any problems establishing their WWOOF membership is current, you can always contact the main office. By checking the identity of volunteers and that membership is current you help us to reduce the incidence of problem WWOOFers. This is vital for us as an organisation to remain healthy, so please be vigilant.
- International callers often seem more demanding because of language difficulties. Please be patient and help them through this because the majority of reports on overseas volunteers are very good.
- This initial contact is a good time to sort out what work needs to be done (e.g. if you have livestock and the WWOOFer prefers not to work with animals now is the time to find out). You can also come to an agreement about hours to be worked - and time off - in the case of longer term helpers.
- We stress that you are in no way obliged to take anyone and everyone who contacts you through the host list. Try and keep in touch with your Regional Host Contact (RHC) and other hosts in your area so you can pass volunteers on if you can’t use them at any time. We also emphasise that if the arrangement doesn’t work for whatever reason, neither you nor the WWOOFer are expected to continue with it. Please make sure volunteers leave at a reasonable time of day when they can safely travel, especially if you are in an isolated area. All WWOOFers are instructed to make prior arrangements with hosts, so if any just turn up and you do not want them, please feel free to turn them away.
- The Host list is published twice a year in hard copy and updated on the website almost immediately. We will endeavour to place you on the website as soon as possible after your application has been approved.
Your host membership
The annual subscription for hosts covers the cost of administration and printed newsletters. Membership also entitles you to go WWOOFing – should you have time!
Where two or more people are involved in your farm/holding, all should be in agreement to take and support WWOOFers. It is very difficult for helpers to enter your ‘family’ unit in any case, but to come into an atmosphere of resentment is most unwelcoming. So please make sure everyone is involved in the final decision before you apply.
Please note, you may be visited within the duration of your WWOOF UK membership, by a staff member or a regional host contact.
As you will by now realise, you have to feed and house volunteers in return for their efforts. This has a cost in money and time attached to it and your income may not be realised until sometime after their visit. Please make sure you can support WWOOFers with good, wholesome food at whatever time of year they come. If this feels like it could be too much of a burden for you financially or time-wise, then we would respectfully suggest that the time is not right for you to become a WWOOF host.