Work a few hours a day in exchange for shelter, food and new agricultural knowledge. This is what the WWOOF movement (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms) since 1971. Workers have no wages. The relationship between employee and employer is not united only by financial motivation, but by the desire for discovery.
Adventure is what prompted Marjorie to come to Canada in 2016. She lived experiences Wwoof and HelpX, a website similar to Wwoof, for 11 months. It is while discussing their adventures with Delphine Pugniet, met during her trip to Quebec, that Marjorie and her companion at the time meet the owners of the Auberge Café chez Sam, in Baie-Sainte-Catherine, Quebec.
“The owners were Native, we learned a lot about Samuel de Champlain who had landed in Baie Saint-Catherine. They were playing the harmonica around the fire. They taught us the Pow-Wow and the history of Quebec, things that I had never learned in France. Things that I would never have learned by staying in Montreal in a company ”. She happily recalls these experiences, which fueled her desire to live here.
Find his way
For Kim D’Alessio, former marketing director, participating in a Wwoofing experience is a way to take a “nice big break”, which allows him to reconnect with his environmental values and question his professional future. For her, Wwoofing “it’s a start, it’s working in nature”.
What unites Kim and all the Wwoofers is their sensitivity to environmental issues. The Federation of WWOOF Organizations is trying to educate people about environmental conservation by creating a community of farmers concerned with “organic and sustainable practices, while respecting nature while preserving natural resources,” we read on wwoof.ca.
Last June, the adopted Edmontonian left the office to join, on a British Columbian island, the garden of “an old couple of Iranians”. Looking after vegetables for about 4.5 hours a day, six days a week, is her schedule for eight weeks.
“It’s not for everyone! She warns with a burst of laughter. There is the physical pain, but also a minimalist lifestyle to integrate. “A lot of people are used to having their own home, their apartment, with everything accessible. There, I have a very simple room, I have a bed and I have my backpack. I don’t have a lot of business. We must remove the superfluous. “
“Wwoofing is an experience. It should not be seen as free work, it is really an exchange between the host and the Wwoofers ”. An exchange of work, but also a cultural exchange.
Passing on knowledge
“There aren’t really any work experiences where we can’t learn about each other,” says Monica Marenholtz, owner of Chickadee Farm Herbs Ltd.
Since 2015, this Edmonton farm has welcomed Wwoofers who work 6 hours a day, six days a week, with their employees. While some participants are keen on having a fixed schedule and enjoying their freedom, “most are there for the experience and they are happy to work when we are working. Their time is close to six hours a day, but some work with us no matter the time and the task. We actually work very long hours ”explains the lady.
All is not rosy: abuse exists in such experiences. “There is really abuse, that’s the downside. The positive point, you can learn a lot of things, meet extraordinary people who will take you far, ”says Marjorie.
If it is for economic reasons that push the Marenholtz family to make this decision, it is the pleasure of bequeathing knowledge that motivates Monica to continue welcoming the Wwoofers: “This is what we did with our children, it is enough to teach them. It is good that people discover nature and many people reflect on such an experience ”.
The farm sometimes lodges German or Japanese families. This year, an Edmontonian family of four came to help out for a week. Everyone is working: “It’s so diverse (the tasks) that there is always something useful to do and yes, it is organization”.
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To live his dream
After working in agricultural science for two decades, Andreas and his wife decide to live a dream: to have a farm. But, “to work with the bank and have the capital to do that, it’s impossible. Because the banks just work with the big farmers. We are in another category that does not exist, it is very difficult to create a farm. We started with nothing, it was very difficult ”.
The Gruenebergs heard about Wwoofers 20 years ago. “The Wwoofing program has given us the opportunity to have people who are interested in agriculture and who give their time and their work in exchange for living here and having something to eat”, we learn during a telephone interview with Andreas Grueneberg, owner of Green Eggs & Ham Family Farms.
“Most of them are fantastic!” He gives the example of this lady, a pre-retired who came to do a Wwoofing experience on her farm in the spring. “You don’t know who’s coming,” says the farmer, who welcomes a hundred Wwoofers a year. Each comes with “a different culture, but also different ways of thinking”.