WWOOF: A cheap, eco-friendly way to travel, except in China

I’ve always been intrigued by the organization WWOOF (“World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms”), which connects organic farms around the world with willing workers who are usually travelers looking for a deeper connection to a country. Every person I know who has worked on an organic farm through WWOOF has raved about their experience, which usually included light farm labor, healthy meals, and a family-like atmosphere. Up until now, I’ve balked at registering for WWOOF, however, because you have to pay to view the hosts for each country. I’m too non-committal for that – until now.

Since I’m headed to China with a six-month visa, I thought it would be the perfect time to test out WWOOF. I paid my $40 with an innocent (and ignorant) daydream of working ankle-deep in rice paddies or some other pastoral setting. Imagine my disappointment when I logged on to find that the majority of hosts live in or very close to a major city, and are looking mostly for language teachers. One host needed an accountant, another an engineer.

It appears that WWOOF has loosened the rules for Chinese hosts: in order to encourage participation they’ve waived the host registration fee, and also state that hosts need only “have some work for a WWOOF China traveler who comes to your place to do each day.” Pretty broad.

I’ll skip the housekeeping in central Beijing for now, and hope that more farmers – organic or not! – are able to register.