Travel the World
7 Working Farm Holiday Options
Does your idea of a getaway include milking cows, planting carrots and baling straw? It’s counterintuitive perhaps, but working farm holidays are a growing choice among travellers curious about what the world eats, and how it’s made.
1. Willing Workers on Organic Farms (WWOOF), International
See the world, and its farms, on a budget. In what seems like a backpacker’s dream tradeoff, travellers swap an agreed-upon amount of farm labour in exchange for food and lodging. For a nominal fee, you can buy a membership at any one of WWOOF’s 50-plus country chapters and connect with fruit growers, dairy farmers, even beekeepers from all over that nation.
While this type of travel is heavier on the work load scale, so are the benefits. “Hosts are committed to growing and producing organically,” says Becky Young, program co-ordinator of WWOOF Canada, “and are keen to share knowledge of these practices with their guests, while welcoming them into their family for a cultural exchange.”
2. Earth to City Tours, Ecuador
After spending time in farms across Ecuador fishing trout, training tomato vines and roasting guinea pigs-a beloved national dish-New York journalist Tien-Shun Lee decided her experience was something to share.
She started Earth to City tours in 2008 as an affordable way for travellers to spend time volunteering in a country with a strong agricultural spirit. For $295 to $345 (U.S., travel cost not included), you can spend a five-day week volunteering on a farm in the mountains of Muladillo, the jungle town of Lago Agrio, or coastal community in Esmereldas.
3. Bold Point Farms, British Columbia
Rod and Geraldine Burns have been hosting families on their Quadra Island farm since 1995. With B&B or cottage rental lodgings and a host of kid-friendly farm activities, Bold Point is more of a happy medium between a working and vacation farm stay.
After morning chores of releasing the ducks and handling newborn chicks, take the canoe for a spin or a guided forest walk with Rod before coming home to feed the lambs.
4. Devon Farms, Southwest England
With over 11,000 farm holdings, agriculture is still a core trade in this county in southwestern England, despite recent industry troubles.
Devon Farms is one of the community solutions to that: a collective of over 130 local farmers offering a variety of vacations, many that offer an opportunity to join in on farm activities. Others also offer a more recreational-type stay.
“Many of our guests are keen walkers or horse riders and farmers know the best walks and riding stables,” says press officer Robin Head, “simply because they know the land better than anyone else.”
5. Learning From Ladakh, Northern India
Be part of a harvest in the “Little Tibet” region of the Western Himalayas.
More educational program than tourist experience, Learning from Ladakh is an initiative by the International Society for Ecology and Culture to expose travellers to a traditional way of life that has seen rapid change in the last 30 years. Participants spend up to five weeks with a family in Ladakh, learning farming practices, doing household chores and learning the local language.
6. Feather Down Farms, United States
A concept that travelled from Europe to the States, Feather Down Farm Days is a standardized vacation experience offered at a number of farms from New York state and Illinois. While the farm focus may vary (from heirloom vegetable growing to cattle raising) the accommodations are the same: wooden, cottage-style tents that sleep up to six.
Cook yourselves some freshly-gathered eggs in the morning before a day of haying, cycling and farm workshops. Similar accommodations are also available in The Netherlands, France and the U.K.
7. Myella Farms, Australia
“You will leave stiff, sore and dirty, but happy!” exclaims the home page of this cattle station that has been hosting guests for 17 years.
Situated in the Queensland outback, the landscape is ideal for motorbike or horse riding. Guests are welcome to take part in as many (or as little) chores and activities as they like, from cow milking to horse gathering-even animal rescue, as the Myella family from time to time takes in orphaned kangaroos.
Primarily a dairy and cattle farm in the 1930’s and 1960’s, the Myella family began hosting families in 1993.