Zach Bartel, 23, volunteers with Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms at Raven Ridge Farm in Peyton on Saturday. The program matches volunteers with host farms around the world. (Stephen Mitchell, The Denver Post)

Colorado organic farmers who have struggled to find affordable labor are being helped by a program that connects them with volunteer workers eager to learn the ins and outs of life on a farm.

Since it's 2001 launch, World Wide Opportunities for Organic Farms or WWOOF has grown to 19,000 participants, said Sarah Potenza, executive director of WWOOF-U.S.

Volunteers work about four to five hours a day for room and board — there is no monetary exchange.

"Our idea is that we're going to connect people who need help and people who want to learn about organic farming," Potenza said.

Zach Bartel, 23, of Grand Rapids, Mich., is among those who have committed to the program. Bartel, who volunteers at Raven Ridge

Zach Bartel uses a broadfork to loosen and work the soil. (Stephen Mitchell, The Denver Post)
Farms in Peyton, said he had always been interested in organic agriculture, so after graduating from Northern Michigan University with a double major in environmental science and secondary education in Spanish, he started to look for farms to work at.

"What was really important to me was I wanted to learn," he said.

Being a WWOOFer, as the volunteers are known, made him realize the amount of work that goes into an organic farm.

For the farmers who bring in WWOOF volunteers, the benefits are significant.