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Gap Year Options for Almost-Graduates: WWOOF

Does this describe you: a young and ambitious high school graduate ready to start college but having a desire to work outdoors, help the environment and gain an education you can't find in a traditional classroom? If so, a gap year might be just what you're looking for. And a gap year volunteering for the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) might be just what you need.

By Harrison Howe

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Planting the Seeds of WWOOF

Begun in 1971 in England as a way for individuals to work on organic farms only during the weekends, WWOOF has grown into an international network of organizations with locations in many countries around the world. Since the organization quickly grew beyond weekend-only arrangements, the name was changed to 'Willing Workers on Organic Farms' and, in 2000, to its current moniker (some groups, however, still refer to themselves by the old name).

Thousands of farms in all 50 states now participate in the WWOOF program. In addition, WWOOF groups operate in regions of North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. While each WWOOF group has their own way of doing things, they all share one common goal: to provide an enjoyable and knowledge-building outdoor experience for 'WWOOFers' from all walks of life.

WWOOFing Your Way Through Your Gap Year

From beekeeping to wine-making, your WWOOF experience, known as 'wwoofing' in the organization's lingo (and no, it has nothing to do with dogs barking), can include more than growing vegetables. You should learn a great deal about all aspects of organic farming and gardening. You can choose to participate in half-day experiences for a few days, weeks or an entire season. In exchange for your volunteerism, host farmers will offer food and accommodations.

To be eligible to become a 'WWOOFer', you must be a member of a specific WWOOF group (there is no single worldwide WWOOF membership; for instance, if you wish to volunteer on an organic farm in Australia, you would have to join the WWOOF Australia group). Membership allows you to contact a host farm to arrange the details of your volunteer experience. As a member, you can access an online directory of host farms.

So, if you answered yes to the question in the first line of this blog, and you've read this far, then chances are you're ready to go 'wwoofing'. You might work hard but be assured, you won't be barking up the wrong tree.

Learn more about what a gap year is and how it can positively affect your mental, spiritual and emotional growth.

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