This past week I went WWOOFing. WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a loose coalition of farms that will give you room and food in exchange for you working on their farm. I first heard about WWOOF back when I was studying abroad in Brazil from my friend Eric, but I only just got the chance to try it out.
Finding a farm to volunteer at is simple. WWOOF’s website is set up like a dating site. You find a farm you are interested in working at and message them to see if they are looking for help. If they do then you just have to travel to the farm and start working.
I decided I wanted to work at Scarecrow Ranch in Fallon, Nevada. They raised goats, chickens, bees, and were growing beets and carrots. They also had around 100 acres of hayfields and some old farm tractors and farm equipment. It seemed like a good fit so I messaged them to see if they needed help. Two days later I was in Fallon, Nevada.
Fun Fact: Fallon, Nevada is a small town of 8,600. Five miles from Fallon is the Fallon Naval Air Base where the TOPGUN school (as in Maverick and Goose, Top Gun) is located. Unfortunately, no fighter jets buzzed the farm while I was there.
Upon arriving at the ranch I met Butch the 50-something year old owner who owns the farm with his wife Charlene and their twenty-seven year old son Steven. Upon hearing that I was from a farm in Iowa Butch immediately began to talk about the last season of ABC’s dating reality show “The Bachelor” which featured a farmer from Iowa.
*Rant* This has by no means been the first time that the show “The Bachelor” has been brought up when people find out I am from Iowa. It is really starting to bum me out. I don’t care if the first thing you think of when you hear Iowa is corn, or Korn, or even potatoes, but I really don’t want the states cultural icon to be a reality tv show. *End Rant*
Despite of Butch’s love for “The Bachelor” he actually turned out to be a pretty cool dude. He even let me read from his Playboy magazine collection.
Most of my farm work was done with Steven, a super cool actor/ musician/ world traveler who spends half the year helping his family farm and the other half traveling the world and doing acting or music gigs. Most days would involve waking up at around 8am when it was still cool. Working until it got hot, taking a break until it cooled down again, and then working for another two or three hours. I never really knew what each day would entail. Some days I would spend just de-weeding the farm and watering the garden. Other days I might be walking goats or doing maintenance work on farm equipment. One day I even got to help out collecting honey from Steven’s beehive. Some days were harder than others but it was never really “hard” and I never felt overworked.
For my living quarters I got to have a fifth wheel camper all to myself. I don’t have much experience with campers but driving through the countryside of Nevada you would think that it was a state law that each residence had at least one of them (Scarecrow Ranch had three.) The camper was quiet pleasant. I cooked all my meals in it (Steven and I went food shopping when I first arrived) and the camper gave me a nice amount of privacy. The only issue with the camper was that it got super hot during the day and freezing at night, but otherwise it was very pleasant.
Another caveat about the camper was that the bathroom didn’t work so I got to use Steven’s open-air bathroom. It was an interesting design. Decorated with empty glass beer bottles and branches held together by concrete the shower gave you a beautiful view of the Desert Mountain range to the south. The only issue was that the fairly busy highway approximately 100 feet away from the shower and the somewhat large gaps between the bottles and branches of the privacy wall meant that while you were enjoying the view on coming traffic could very well be enjoying the view of your naked body. But you quickly got used to these sorts of things on the farm.
I ended up working at Scarecrow Ranch for ten days. It was a really wonderful experience and a great way to see a part of the country I would never have seen otherwise. While my stay was pretty physically demanding there are a lot of WWOOF farms with a range of different jobs and physical requirements so if you are interested I would encourage you to check it out if interested. There are over a thousand farms that you can volunteer with in the United States and Internationally. Many farms also are cool if you just want to work for an afternoon or weekend. You can check out WWOOF USA’s website here (wwoofusa.org) or if you are interested in WWOOFing internationally just Google “WWOOF + Country Name”.