It has been a while since my last blog post, because I have been so busy recently and largely away from the internet. My trip to the Horticulture Garden actually inspired me to get involved with growing things in the Netherlands. I spent a month WWOOFing in the Dutch countryside!
WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farms. It is an organisation which allows volunteers to be matched up with organic farms around the world. In exchange for a few hours farm work per day, volunteers are given food and board by the farmer. Because it is a volunteer opportunity, volunteers will not normally need a work visa, although it is worth checking with the local authorities so that you do not find yourself in any trouble. Most EU citizens should be able to do volunteer work in another EU country without any issues. Check out the WOOF website here for further info.
I found out about WWOOF from a South American guy who I met outside the travel agency in Amsterdam. He was looking for a cheap bus on towards his next destination and we got chatting whilst waiting in line to speak to the advisors. He told me that he had been traveling for nearly 2 years but he had only spent the equivalent of a few thousand Euros. He had always dreamt of seeing the world, but the opportunity was not one which was possible for many people in his position. One day, he met some travellers near to his home who told him that they were working on a WWOOF farm close to his home. They introduced him to the concept of WWOOFING and working holidays, and he realised that this could be what he was looking for. Thanks to WWOOF he had only really spent money on his transport and a few luxury items that you need to keep you going. A few times he had topped up his funds by getting a work visa and taking paid employment opportunities instead.
By the time I got to the front of the agency queue, I had already decided that I would look into WWOOF instead of making a rash decision about where to head to next. I still got some advice from the travel agent, but decided to hold off on booking anything until I had investigated WWOOF some more.
You do have to sign up with the regional or national branch of WWOOF which does have a small annual cost associated with it, but this cost was only about the same as the cost of one night in a hostel in Amsterdam so I didn’t mind too much. Once you sign up, you can contact Farms to see if they would be able to host you.
I went to a farm in north of the country for a few weeks and had an amazing time. The farm I went to put volunteers up in a cosy but basic bunk house, and fed us some amazing Dutch specialities (all organic of course!). WWOOFers at this particular farm would make an arrangement to either do the morning shift, the afternoon shift or the evening shift, and they would have the rest of the day free to do what they wanted.
The farm where I was staying actually had a couple of spare bikes which they were able to lend to volunteers. It was so nice to be able to just cycle around to countryside or even pedal as far as the sea! Holland in Spring is so beautiful, and I feel as though this stay gave me chance to explore areas which I would never normally go to.