Many people have dreams of spending their Italian vacation on a farm... seeing cheese and wine made, perhaps learning how to make pasta, milk a goat or make fresh sausage. Of course, you can always spend your vacation on an agriturismo in the region of your choice. An agriturismo will typically have fairly posh and comfy apartments or rooms, wine tastings (for extra $$$), cooking lessons (again, more $$$) and even their own restaurants on site--some include meals, most don't.
You can find some that are historic and agriculturally oriented, but many are simply overly developed investment hotelier or B&B properties often owned by non-Italian investors and staffed by young, inexperienced hotel staff. The wine and olive oil they produce and sell to tourists are not known to be high quality. If you research meticulously, you can find some that are actually working farms run by the same family that lives and works on the farm. But there is another way to have an authentic, hands-on experience with Italian agricultural organic techniques, food-to-table, and Slow Food movements....
WWOOF is a worldwide movement linking volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange--yes, people work for free--but they gain a whole lot more than money in these experiences. The goal of the organization is to help spread the message of building a sustainable global community. As the average age of farmers is 55, the world needs more young people to return from the big city job centers to sustain farming--especially organic methods--and carry on the skills and craftsmanship needed for smaller, owner-operator farms to survive. Many young Americans see this as an opportunity to learn authentic skills that they can use to start their own green enterprises at home.
What is WWOOFing?
WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, but the concept of having a working vacation on farms has been around for a while under the older Willing Workers on Organic Farms, where city dwellers in the UK volunteered on organic farms in the countryside. Always wanted to work on a farm? Want to learn some skills to help start your own organic farm? Want to learn the Slow Food method of growing and then producing your own artisanal food products? Read on... you might have just found a great way to have a very valuable experience...
There are WWOOF farms in many countries around the world... and luckily for the Italophile interested in honing their organic skills, Italy has many opportunities, too. Membership for one year is €35. There are over 650 WWOOF host farm members in Italy in many areas of specialty: cheesemaking, olives and olive oil production, vines and wines, sheep & herding, goats, almonds, fowl (chickens, ducks and others), cows & milking, pigs & sausage, butchering, beekeeping, hay & cereals and vegetables of all kinds. In addition, some offer opportunities to learn construction trades relating to farming... carpentry, masonry, historic restoration, blacksmithing and more.
Volunteers stay in a variety of accommodations from tents to castles, Trulli to masseria farm complexes, converted barns and shared dorms. There are even those that welcome entire families with programs for children. The WWOOF site has an excellent keyword driven search engine that can help you locate a perfect match for the skills you are interested in experiencing first hand.
Click for a LIST OF WWOOF Farms in Italy.
To register for a WWOOF experience, SIGN UP HERE.