Friday, July 4, 2014

WWOOF in the Highlands- Organic Farming Volunteers

In the highlands, we received tip top highland hospitality from none other than the amazing Donna Stiven. Every afternoon and evening, the company would gather together to eat at her and Eddie's beautiful warm home and I can safely say that none of us had a single meal short of incredible. I had a wonderful time helping Donna, Margaret, and Donna's WWOOFer, Louis, in the kitchen several times and it was really interesting to learn more about the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).

According to Donna, “Wwoofing" is all about learning and teaching sustainability
and skills pertaining to organic growing. Mostly, she says, she learns from her WWOOFers. She began hiring WWOOFers when Eddie was working in the South of England for 2 years and everything in her backyard "went to crap." (Her words, not mine!) Her dear friend Amy at the company's new favorite Glenelg coffee shop, The Wagon, has had WWOOFers for a long time and Donna figured she would give it a shot! She told me that all of her WWOOFers have been young people who have a degree of sorts and a passion for traveling (you can be a WWOOFer anywhere in the world) and that they all have been very pleasant and kind people. WWOOFers are so hungry to get picked up by a host family that Donna says she receives three applications every day. Those are mostly folks from Europe (especially Spain, France, and Italy), but she has received one from as far as America. WWOOFing is particularly appealing in areas where the poor economy is affecting young people who say they have nothing back home for them as far as careers go.
The Wagon, another organic farm in Glenbeg

As a WWOOF host, Donna provides Louis food and housing as well as all the supplies he needs. The WWOOF Organization states that the WWOOFers are allowed to work up to 7 hours a day, 6 days a week but Donna says that's too much and has Louis working a flexible schedule of 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, weather dependent.

The company at The Wagon
I asked Louis what his favorite thing about WWOOFing was and he said that he loves being immersed in the culture of each place he visits as well as learning about farming. He has WWOOFed all over Spain and this is his second summer in Scotland, but first time with Donna. He's a 32 year old biology graduate from Valencia and studied organic farming in graduate school where he obtained connections to WWOOFing and has been doing it for three summers now! Next he is headed to Bonar Bridge and later this summer he will be in Iceland. It's incredibly exciting for Louis to be headed to Iceland because due to their strict laws regarding importing goods and energy, everyone only eats seasonally.

I feel like I really learned a lot from Donna about WWOOFing as well as hospitality and I certainly learned a lot about Scottish cooking! Everyone in the kitchen was always all smiles and kindness and I'm so glad I got to sit down with Louis and Donna and talk about their relationship with the WWOOF Organization!
-Arielle Fodor

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