My parents used to worry that I’d be kidnapped. I once wandered away at a picnic and was found, a few panicked minutes later, having lunch and chatting amiably with a nearby family. Another time I got lost at Sea-Tea Mall and, after security personnel had shut down all the entrances, was discovered in the shoe department talking with a woman and ordering my size of sneakers. Needless to say, I’ve never had trouble meeting new people.
Sometimes this natural ability to network comes in handy. Last week I found myself striking up a conversation with a colleague of mine whom I had met once only briefly. The conversation quickly turned to my impending trip. Coincidentally, my colleague has done quite a bit of world travel. She asked me if I was planning on “woofing it.” I wasn’t sure if this had anything to do with “hoofing it,” but I doubted it and said, “no.” She proceeded to tell me all about people who “woof” their way around the world. Much like the word “antique,” woofing is a noun-turned-verb: WWOOF stands for the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Apparently, lots of budget traveler make their way around the world through woofing. In exchange for working on an organic farm, woofers are provided free room and board (read: delicious, local, organic fare), as well as an opportunity to hob nob with locals and learn a thing or two about organic farming.
I have always had an interest in organic farming. In fact, one of my dreams for the Italy portion of our trip has been to tour Tuscany by staying in agriturismos, which are an observation-based (and more expensive) version of WWOOFs. Here, guests pay to stay on a working farm, enjoying a room in the farm’s house and the fruits of the farm’s labors without the labor. But the WWOOFs really appeal to me. Not only would it provide an opportunity to keep our costs down in a very expensive country, but I would relish the chance to learn more about farming in a country that it known for its outstanding food production. What better way to eat your way through a country than to enjoy the food you spent the day toiling over?
I went on WWOOF’s Italy website to investigate the list of participating farms, and was bowled over by the sheer variety. From hazelnut farms to olive oil farms, they seem to represent the best of Italy’s culinary landscape. Some farms speak English; others don’t. Some provide a room in the farmhouse; others are open to campers only. You can choose to stay a few days or a few weeks, and are warned that the hours might be long during harvest season. There truly seems to be something for every taste imaginable. I can already taste the pecorino.1 comment