A beautiful spot in Finland. Image by Morgan Pettersson.
After spending five weeks traveling in Finland, my bank balance was not looking pretty.
While it’s a beautiful country, Finland, unfortunately, is also one of the most expensive in the world. As my funds dwindled, I decided to try to save money and learn more about the Finnish culture simultaneously.
How would I do it? WWOOFing. It sounded like a perfect idea: Volunteer on an organic farm in exchange for free food and board.
As I looked online, I could find very little about WWOOFing in Finland. My experience has inspired me to raise awareness about why you should consider WWOOFing on your travels, and especially in Finland!
What does WWOOF mean?
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
Begun over 40 years ago, the aim is to provide organic farms around the world with the opportunity to host volunteers who receive board and meals in exchange for work. There is also a cultural exchange, and it’s a great opportunity to learn new skills!
WWOOFing is the perfect way to travel without spending too much money. You only need to pay your way to and from the farm. Many travellers are able to see the world in this way, volunteering on farms as they go.
The fields on the farm on which I volunteered in Finland. Image by Morgan Pettersson.
What You Need to Know
1. Do your research about your location.
What’s expected of you?
It’s easy these days to do a quick Google search about the farm where you’re thinking of volunteering. The important thing to remember is that each farm is different, so make sure you find out what is expected of you before you arrive.
As a general rule, most farms will ask for around six to eight hours of work per day, and this can range from picking berries to more manual labor.
What will your accommodations be like?
It’s also important to find out who lives at the farm. Are you joining a young family or a single farmer?
Some farms will house you in a room in the main house; others will have a smaller house especially for volunteers and workers. Your accommodations could range from your own room and bathroom to sharing a co-ed dormitory, so always ask beforehand to make sure that you feel comfortable with the arrangements.
In popular WWOOF countries, like Italy and France, there are many blogs about good and bad WWOOF experiences, so do a quick search to make sure that the place you are thinking of visiting treats its volunteers well. Some WWOOF sites will also include testimonials about past volunteer experiences that you can use as guides.
Learning to bake traditional Finnish breads. Image by Morgan Pettersson.
2. Be prepared.
Make sure that you have the right clothing — if the farm does not have anything to provide you. I was certainly glad that I packed my thermals for the cold and windy days in the fields!
Also be sure to bring with you anything you normally rely on in your daily life, including medications and tampons, as you might not be situated very close to civilization. This can also include a secret chocolate stash for those days that you need it! (From my experience, I recommend it!)
3. Ask, ask, ask.
Be sure to ask your host the questions that are important to you before you get started. If things are not feeling right online, then don’t continue with the plans.
Also inform your hosts before arriving of any dietary restrictions you have, so they can be prepared.
4. Have an exit plan.
Sometimes, despite best efforts and good intentions, these things don’t work out, so make sure that you have an exit plan in place, whether this is a cheap hotel nearby or a friend’s house.
Speaking of friends, advise one, either back home or someone you met during your travels, of which farm you’re going to and how long you’ll be there — for safety reasons!
My best friend, Casper the Donkey. Image by Morgan Pettersson.
Personally, I had a wonderful first-time WWOOF experience and would gladly do it again.
I volunteered on an organic berry farm for a week in Southwest Finland. My hosts, Jurkka and Verena, were so kind. After six weeks of lentils and tuna pasta on my travels, their fresh, organic meals were just what I needed to help fight off scurvy.
During my experience, I found that no two days were the same. One day I spent fertilizing the blueberry fields, the next taking down fencing, and the next working in the strawberry fields. Every morning I spent chasing Casper the donkey around trying to brush him.
My hosts were very laid-back about the work schedule, and most days I felt that I did not work hard enough in exchange for the great food they provided me.
Not only did I learn about organic farming, I learnt how to make pulla, a traditional Finnish sweetbread that I had been curious about. Who could ask for more?
Looking for additional information?
Check out these WWOOF websites listing hosting opportunities on farms around the world!
WWOOF Independents — Website for countries not on the other websites (such as Finland)
Next time you’re traveling and need a budget-friendly place to stay (along with a great cultural experience), consider giving WWOOFing a try. You never know what skills you might learn!