It’s not hard to strike up a conversation about WWOOF, as all you have to do is drop the name and people are instantly intrigued. “Woof?”, they laugh, “What is that?” And, trying to dial down the wide-eyed excitement, I answer “It’s awesome!”

WWOOF can stand for a few things: Willing Workers on Organic Farms, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or The Best Way To Spend A Week Of Your Life.  Ok, I made that last one up, but it’s genuinely how I feel after my WWOOfing experience.

I first learned of WWOOF from this article on Vagabondish.  Incidentally that’s also how I found out about Couch Surfing, which will be the subject of another article, soon enough.  The name drew my attention and as I read more about it I realized that I very much wanted to go.  I wanted to get out of the office and try being a farmhand, if just for a little while.  So this past summer I picked a week,  booked some vacation time, and headed off to the farm!

Well, there was a bit more to it than that – I had to get a membership with WWOOF Japan, go through the list of Host Farms and choose one I thought I wouldn’t accidentally destroy, then contact them and arrange the dates, and then pack. How does one pack for a week of manual field work?  I was told to bring long-sleeved shirts, despite it being August, so I packed some baggy ones along with a pair of khakis that had seen better days.  Then I was ready to head off to Yoshimura Farm.

As a WWOOFer you work a certain number of hours per day, and in exchange the host provides you with room and board.  I spent just six days with the Yoshimuras, and on the farm I harvested vegetables, watered plants, weeded, trimmed overgrown herb bushes, and helped clear a pumpkin field.  The farm is small, but there is a surprising amount of work to be done every day, so I returned to their house each evening exhausted but happy.  And then I got to eat the food which we had gathered.  Being 100% organic it was fresh, and wonderful.

I am very happy with the choice I made, as I had an incredible experience with them. A full account of it can be found at my Live Journal, in the post I creatively titled “WWOOFing”. It was not easy work, but nor did I feel like I was given any tasks beyond my abilities. In fact it challenged me in ways I wasn’t expecting, and I was thrilled to exceed my own expectations about myself.

I left the farm in slightly better shape, with a neck-tan, and full of joy. That was quite a few months ago, and with another vacation period (Golden Week) coming soon I’ve made up my mind to try it again once more before I leave Japan. I will probably visit another farm to get a variety of experience, and I may be joined by some friends. I can’t wait to get back to work!