An Interview with Susan Coppard, Founder of WWOOF

An interview with Susan Coppard (WWOOF Founder)

In 1971 Susan Coppard founded WWOOF, a worldwide network for volunteers, who are willing to work on organic farms. In return for muscle power a volunteer receives free accommodation, food and the knowledge about organic practices. Starting in Sussex the WWOOF organisation has become a big movement among travelers, interested people and folks wanting a life changing experience.

I had the amazing opportunity to ask Susan Coppard about the organisation.

First of all, can you describe what WWOOF is?

WWOOF is a network of very varied organic farms, smallholdings and gardens which, in return for members’ help on their land, offer accommodation, education and experience of rural life. WWOOF is by now an international movement where over 60 countries have their own WWOOF organisation, and around 30 other countries with Hosts but no WWOOF are looked after by an internet organisation known as WWOOF Independents.

Sue Coppard, right

Sue Coppard, right

How did the whole project start?

It started in 1971 when, as a London secretary, I thought up the idea as a way of getting back into the countryside. It took me quite a lot of time to find a willing place, and began with one trial weekend at Emerson College’s bio-dynamic farm down in leafy Sussex. The first 15 members came from an advertisement placed in London’s TIME OUT magazine. I named named the enterprise Working Weekends On Organic Farms – WWOOF! Then, as articles were written about it, it began to expand and more Hosts and Helpers joined. However, when it spread to other countries with distances too great for ‘weekending’ a new name Willing Workers On Organic Farms came into being. Finally, we ended up with World Wide Opportunities etc.etc.

What is it all about that the name of the organization changed two times?

Circumstances in how WWOOF works dictated the changes. If WWOOFing is not all about going away for weekends then the title should not imply that it’s just for weekends!
And the final name (World Wide…) indicates all that is on offer nowadays: ‘The world is your oyster’

Last year the WWOOF organisation had its 40th birthday. Today there are nearly 10.000 organic farms in 100 countries. How do you think the project will go on?

I’m sure it will continue to grow as WWOOF offers so many things that people enjoy and need: contact with nature and animals; training in producing your own food – indeed, changing to a rural career. Organic ideals inspire volunteers as the right way to live and care for the planet. And people in the Organic Movement are on the whole extremely nice and interesting, and care about the world. Working on the land is also a lot of fun and physically very healthy – a great contrast to urban life. WWOOF also offers the chance to travel, either to other regions in one’s own country or abroad. It’s a wonderful way to ‘go native’ – experience the real country – and and make friends with people from other parts of the world. There are also all sorts of unexpected pleasures that crop up on a WWOOF, be it hearing a new piece of music, making bread/cider/wine/butter/cheese, dancing, using herbs, meditating, discovering a new author…

To continue reading the interview, please click here.  

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