WOOFing...what's the best way to contact a host farm?
September 22, 2016 4:13 PM   Subscribe

I finally bit the bullet and bought a membership to WOOF after mulling for a year or so. For those of you that have successfully established work with a host farm: how do you go about it?

I THINK my profile is fine...The question is, what sort of message do I send to host farms that don't specially list contact requirements (such as a letter of interest or what not)? I'm having a difficult time composing emails that would make me seem appealing. Any recommendations are welcome.
posted by Young Kullervo to Human Relations (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I just sent a general inquiry email. Something like:

"Hi there, [or their name if known]

I'm going to be in Italy from April 26 through June 9, and I would love to come help out on your farm during that time. I have X and Y types of experience*. I have a deep interest in Z**, which is why I'm particularly interested in your farm. Please let me know if you'd be interested in having me. Additionally, I would love to know what types of work are usually done on the farm during April, May, and June, as well as what a typical work day is like. I hope to hear from you soon!

Sara C."

Keep in mind that a lot of people on farms don't have constant internet access, and there may also be a language barrier depending on your destination. If you don't hear right away, keep sending emails to new farms. Also, the busy or slack times will vary depending on the time of year, which can affect both how many volunteers are needed as well as how quick they are in replying to you. If this week is the harvest of their main crop, and they are rushing to beat the weather or whatnot, email takes a back seat.

* Re experience, I mentioned that I used to work at a local farmer's market as well as making frequent visits to my grandparents' farm (with some mention of gathering eggs, weeding, etc) throughout my childhood and adult life. I don't think you need to have specific farming experience in most cases, though I suppose you should mention it if you do. I think if you're a total city slicker who's never so much as wielded a trowel before, that's probably also fine.

** Re interest, this is much more important in my book. I apparently got a WWOOF farm that is pretty sought after, and I think it's because I'm a serious wine lover and mentioned specifically that I wanted to work on an Italian vineyard because I love Italian wines and want to know more about how they are made literally from the ground up. If you are honestly just in it for the cheap vacation, maybe just mention how much you've always dreamed of exploring that part of their particular country? In any event having some reason you want to go there definitely helps. Especially if they have a lot of volunteer interest.
posted by Sara C. at 5:03 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am someone who has had WWOOFers and working visitors on my grain and vegetable farm. But I am not in a high demand area (at all!) so things might be different for the super cool farms in cool places. That said, the things I'd like most to know are the same as what Sara C. said: time frame, any relevant experience, and why my farm specifically. That last one's the humdinger. Because there were people who contacted me and were vaguely like, oh it's a generic farm, I can see myself drifting out to collect wildflowers in the morning dew and picking apples by twilight. Yeah, no. And then there were people who either a) had some experience and knew they'd be signing up for hours of weeding and checking crops or b) didn't have experience but took the initiative to *ask* and engage. And then it didn't really matter if they had experience or not as long as they were curious and interested in learning. So try to find a way to connect with those specific operations -- is it because they are biodynamic and you want to learn more about biodynamic production? Or short-season or high-altitude farming? Or you've been trying to make your own cheese/jam/bacon at home and you want to learn how they do it?
posted by bluebelle at 7:17 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

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