Going Organic with WWOOF: Leaving a Sweat Trail through New Zealand

Going Organic with WWOOF: Leaving a Sweat Trail through New Zealand


WWOOF, Travel for free, voluntourism, New Zealand“There’s always an alternative. It’s just up to you how far down that road you want to go – how much it matters to you,” our host Lisa said, as we sat down to a lunch of hot scones with peppers, ham and goat cheese. “Really living organically means you have to go without some comforts.”

“I feel like it’s so much easier here,” I managed to say through mouthfuls of buttered scone. “So many people live on farms that it’s easy to trade olive oil for wine.”

“We do a lot of things right in New Zealand – restaurants, for instance, are really good at buying produce and meat from local farms. But not everyone chooses to live without some conveniences – not everyone cooks to cut down on using packaging, reuses bottles or lives without saran wrap. Our philosophy on this farm,” said Lisa, “is to live simply with as little impact on the environment as possible.”

“I dig it,” I said and reached for another scone.

I had just finished a semester studying abroad, and had come here along with two of my American friends from the University of Melbourne. We were sitting on a deck overlooking a vineyard which sloped down from the house into a ravine some ways away. Beyond the vineyard were the sweeping breadths of other farms – grazing sheep and cows, low, white domes housing hydraulically-grown green beans, olive trees – and further still, dense forests reaching persistently upwards until they became a ring of stark, snow-capped mountains.

We were in New Zealand WWOOFing, and this was the second-to-last day of our first week of organic farming.

Vineyard, Vineyard New Zealand, New Zealand, New Zealand WWOOFWWOOF, which stands for World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a program in which hosts offer room and board in exchange for around 4-5 hours of work per day. WWOOF hosts run the gamut from dairy farmers and craftspeople to self-sustaining gardeners and vintners to anything in between. What they have in common is a commitment to growing and raising organic produce and livestock and living a sustainable, low-impact lifestyle.

Our work in Lisa’s vineyard was relatively simple but crucial, especially as the vineyard itself was only five years old, and many of the vines were in their formative growing years. Each row of vines consisted of equidistant wooden poles strung with three horizontal wires on each side. Approximately five stalks were planted between the poles and attached with string to the lowest of the wires. This wire was fixed and provided support for the growing vines. Hypothetically, as the vines grew, they would stay within the two additional wires, growing up of their own accord.

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