Park your RV on a farm, save money, get sweaty, build community and eat healthy.
What if you could get out of RV parks, campgrounds and Walmart parking lots for a while?
What if you could park your RV on private land?
Land owned by entrepreneurial, self-sufficient, down-to-earth people?
What if you could get your hands dirty around the place, doing maintenance, gardening, repairs, or working with livestock in exchange for your stay?
What if you could build a community with the owners and other people working on the farm? And at the end of a day working together, sit down to a meal made mostly of food grown right there on the farm?
That’s WWOOFing in a nutshell.
Is WWOOFing for RVers?
WWOOFing stands for “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms”.
It’s not a service specifically for RVers (aka Harvest Hosts).
WWOOFing is a like a dating service designed to match up:
- Small organic farms who need help with…
- People who are willing to provide labor in exchange for room and board (and the chance to learn farming skills)
Most “wwoofers” aren’t RV-owners. They stay in housing provided by the host farm. The majority of wwoofers are young adults who aren’t yet married (but there are exceptions).
Suburban Sheep Shirt
If you have the same slightly sarcastic sense of humor as we do this may be the shirt for you. This design is both a commentary on suburban living and a declaration of your intent to leave it.
Styles available: t-Shirts,and hoodies.
Colors available: black, royal blue, navy blue.
Farms have water. Farms have power.
And farms have space.
And the word “farmer” pretty much means “self-sufficient DIY problem solver”.
Bringing an RV onto a farm ain’t no thang.
WWOOFing can be a great fit for RVers looking to get out of campgrounds, build community, get their hands dirty, eat healthy, and learn some new skills.
WWOOfing is especially great for RVing families. Kids can get experiences from wwoofing that no campground will ever be able to match.
WWOOFing stays can be as little as a few days or as long as a couple of months. The farms can be crop-oriented, livestock-oriented, or both.
How To Find an RV-Friendly WWOOFing Farm
There are two basic ways to line up a wwoofing gig as an RVer. You find the farm or let the farm find you.
Here’s how to find a farm:
- Purchase a membership to http://www.wwoofusa.org
- Use the Find a Farm feature
- Select the number of visitors
- Click “More Filters”, Find “Lodging” and select “RV/Camper Parking”
- Select other filters as desired (kid friendly, etc)
- Click “Apply Filters”
- Get your results
- Contact the farm to discuss your stay (see notes below)
Here’s how to let the farm find you:
- Purchase a membership to http://www.wwoofusa.org
- Click the Forums link in the top navigation
- Select the All WWOOF Forum
- Create a new topic that describes who you are and what you’re looking for (here’s our example farm wanted ad)
- Answer farms as they respond to you and schedule a time to contact them to discuss your stay
Questions RVers Should Ask WWOOFing Farms
Each approach to connecting with a farm should lead to a phone call with the farm owners.
Here are some questions an RVer can ask wwoofing farm owners:
- Is the road and drive into the farm RV-friendly (is it paved, gravel, or dirt, have other long and tall vehicles used it lately, etc)?
- How far is it to groceries, gas, restaurants, etc?
- Is there an RV pad?
- If there isn’t an RV pad, is the spot prone to flooding?
- Are there RV hookups available?
- Do the hookups include water, sewer and electric?
- If no sewer, is there a dump nearby?
- What amperage is the electrical connection?
- What’s the cell coverage like?
- Are there laundry facilities we can use?
- What number of hours do you expect from us in exchange for our stay there?
- Are there jobs that we can do on our own time or is there a work schedule?
- Can your work schedule play nicely with ours?
- Will there be other wwoofers there while we are?
- If so, can you tell us about them?
- Are there shared meals?
- Are there opportunities for paid work?
- Does the farm do any community outreach or educational type programs?
- Does the farm have another location that we’d need to provide transportation to?
- Have you had RVers there before?
- Can the farm accomodate our young children?
We’ve also found the phone call to be a great way to get a feel for how well we’ll get along with the farm owner. We tend to book longer stays so a good fit is important.
Our WOOFing Experiences As an RVers
Our first wwoofing experience was on an 80-acre ranch in Texas.
Animal Rescue Ranch
We spent a couple of months working on an animal rescue ranch which was also in Texas.
We didn’t source this gig through WWOOF, but might as well have. Our approach to finding it and the work relationship was the same. We learned a lot that we will apply to future wwoofing jobs.
Read Miranda’s article to get a glimpse of her experience with the different animals.
Read our post to learn some of the challenges we had at this farm (spoiler: MUD!).
We spent 6 weeks on a goat farm in Florida. MsBoyink has written about learning to:
Miranda also blogged about her first week on the goat farm.
Fellow Ditcher Heather Ledeboer recently spent a week wwoofing with her family in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.
Update - Be Cautious!
We’ve had a bit more experience with WOOFing since we orginally wrote this. We still love the idea and think there are probably good situations out there for RVers to partner with farmers. But we aren’t as enthusiastic about WWOOFing as we once were.
The main problem?
The amount of time farms want from their WWOOFers. While the WWOOFing site says “20-25 hours per week” what we found was farms wanting 40-50 hours per week.
And not just 40 hours of sitting at a desk. 40 hours of hard, physical work. Cleaning paddocks. Hauling water. Brushing down animals.
You know. Farm work.
And even though the labor provided is volunteer, expectations for performance are still high. At one farm our daughter was told she wasn’t feeding the animals “fast enough” and she should “run between the pens”. While carrying full 5 gallon buckets.
All for a place to sleep and some food?
The place to sleep wasn’t always great. We saw WWOOFer housing with:
- Falling-in floors
- Leaky roofs
- Infested with cockroaches
- Rotting decks
- Loose toilets
And the food situation wasn’t always great either.
One farm sold us on the “big breakfast” they had every morning. When we got there we found WWOOFers fending for themselves on last night’s leftovers or getting by on crackers and cheese. Same thing for lunch (albeit with some supplies provided by the farm). Then one big formal meal at night.
Other problems exist as well. We’ve had requests from farm owners for professional services like web development or SEO work (not for pay, but as “part of our hours”). Our daughter experienced verbally abusive farm owners, and verbal abuse from other WOOFers. RV sites weren’t as described.
Overall, WWOOFing can still be a great experience. But proceed with caution. Favor short stays (1-2 weeks) over longer ones. Make sure you communicate your expectations with the farm owner, then stick to your guns and leave if the situation doesn’t live up to it.
Don’t sell yourself out as slave labor just for a place to park the RV and a few meals.
WWOOFing for You?
Have you thought about wwoofing? What excites you about it? What concerns do you have?