Tom Kerr writing on homesteading

If you want to live farther from the grid and closer to the earth…you might need some help developing the skills you need.

Where can you go to find out how to live on the land…grow your own food…raise chickens…or set up an alternative power grid for your home?

Which is more energy-efficient and durable, straw bale construction or adobe?  How do you construct a yurt or install a composting toilet?

Who’s going to show you how to work that chainsaw or split your firewood? Is there less toxic way to rid your garden of pests? Is that poison ivy climbing up your fencepost, or a harmless vine? What’s the difference between a yellow jacket, a wood-boring carpenter bee, and a honeybee?

These are just a few of the questions that can leave you scratching your head when it comes to living farther from the grid and closer to the earth.

Fortunately, there are experienced homesteaders all over the planet who are eager to share their know-how if you come and stay with them. You get food and lodging – and a lot of knowledge – in exchange for a few hours a day helping out around the farm.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or “WWOOF” – which operates in the United States as WOOF, USA – is where people who want to learn homesteading skills connect with homesteaders looking for an extra pair of hands.

If you don’t want to leave your homestead, you can take in volunteers who might have just the skills you’re short of. Perhaps it’s something they learned on someone else’s farm last year.

The network was founded by a London secretary who, in 1971, was helping out on a friend’s organic farming and discovered that it was something lots of people wanted to do. She originally started the organization under the name “Working Weekends on Organic Farms”. The idea was to give city-dwellers a way to participate in the organic farming movement was that gaining traction in rural areas.

Today the group is active in 100 countries, offering a wide variety of “farm stay” opportunities. Not only does it benefit those wanting to acquire new skills, but it is a huge help to homesteaders. They get to interact with people from all over the world who offer them cultural exchange and a valuable helping hand – and many more experienced “WWOOFers” have unique skill sets that they can contribute to homestead proprietors.

Typically, a WWOOFer will help out on a host farm for half a day or so, and receive room and board during their visit – with no money exchanged between hosts and WWOOFers. Many WWOOFers work on a farm for several weeks or a few months, before traveling to another WWOOF homestead.

The WWOOF-USA Host Farm Directory lists more than 2,000 organic farms and gardens nationwide, and the program is open to anyone who is at least 18 years old, regardless of experience. That makes it possible to travel around the world – with convenient room and board – while developing valuable practical skills.

There are worldwide opportunities through the WWOOF organization’s global network…but if you just want to go to a farm within driving distance on the weekend, you can do that too.

To join the U.S. affiliate, visit the WWOOF-USA website, register, and pay a nominal fee. Help Exchange – a.k.a. HelpX – provides a similar kind of service, pairing those who want to lend a hand as a volunteer with homesteaders and small farmers willing to offer accommodations and meals in exchange. Hovos.com is yet another online network that connects hosts with volunteers, so that you can barter labor in exchange for room and board.

Image: ©iStock.com/PeopleImages

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