Would you like to volunteer to work on a farm in exchange for room and board? The WWOOF program can make it happen, connecting you with host farms. WWOOF stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms,or World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, as it is known in Italy. WWOOF is a network of farms in many countries around the world, which offer meals and accomodations in trade for help with farm work such as harvesting crops, irrigating, animal care and other agricultural tasks. Specifics vary country by country and farm by farm. For detailed information on the WWOOF program in Italy, please refer to www.wwoof.it. Below is some information on WWOOFing at our farm, LocalitÓ il Piano.
We first became involved in the WWOOF program in 2004 while honeymooning in Norway at a carrots-and-beef farm, and started hosting WWOOFers on our own farm in 2006.
Adolfo is a native of the Spoleto area while Darcy is a native Californian. Our farm is located in the Appennine mountains in rural Umbria, tucked in a small valley under the tiny village (9 inhabitants!) where Adolfo's ancestors have lived for generations. In 2003 we bought some abandoned fields and the ruins of a 15th-century farmhouse and have been busy starting up a farm from scratch. We have planted many of the fields with fruit trees, especially heritage and local varieties, and have been building up the farm infrastructure... fencing, an irrigation lake, a road, and rebuilding the old farmhouse. The farm consists of about 26 hectares of mountainous terrain, including 8 hectares of woods, 4 hectares of orchards, 1+ hectare of olives, a small vineyard, and some pastures. Our interests and hobbies include permaculture (we have a "forest garden" or "food forest", started in 2007), medicinal herbs, and wild edible plants. We have a milk cow, goats, sheep, various poultry, Micia and Sam-the-Cat, Orso the sheep dog, as well as a big vegetable garden and about 1500 young fruit trees to take care of. We live simply and work very hard, but feel lucky to live in such a spectacularly beautiful place and to have the opportunity to farm. Adolfo has a day job in Spoleto working on olive oil and olive tree research, while Darcy works on the farm. Our sons, Ben (born 2008) and Filippo (born 2011), keep things lively. We are all fluent in English and Italian, and Adolfo speaks some Spanish too.
Over the last ten years we have enjoyed hosting hundreds of visitors, from places such as Switzerland, Canada, Mexico, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, Serbia, Australia, Singapore, France, Poland, Germany, Lithuania, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Denmark, Finland and the United States, with an age range of 18 to 62 years. Most of our WWOOFers stay for about 2 weeks, though we can arrange longer stays in some cases. One week minimum stay, please. Most of the work that we do is in the fields so it is important to be in good physical condition and to enjoy working outdoors. You can think about WWOOFing here as a mini-internship in sustainable farming, offering hands-on experience in a wide variety of farm chores. It is an amazing experience for people passionate about agriculture and food. Over 10 years of hosting WWOOFers, we've noticed that people who are not genuinely interested in agriculture would be best off at a youth hostel. No previous experience in agriculture is necessary, just an open mind, willing body, and enthusiasm about a sustainable way of life. We ask WWOOFers to be prepared to be relatively independent: sometimes we will work together in the fields and sometimes you will work alone. Likewise some meals will be together but others we'll ask you to prepare and eat alone. Generally we host 2-3 people at a time, though in peak season we sometimes host larger groups. We and the WWOOFers speak mainly English, as this is the common language of most travellers. No young children, please - the WWOOFer quarters are not babyproof.
We enjoy hosting people enthusiastic about sustainable agriculture and have lots of spring, summer, and fall projects for WWOOFers. Our main spring tasks typically include orchard maintenance, weeding, painting tree trunks, animal care, fence maintenance, clearing brush, moving rocks, stacking hay bales, etc. In summer we spend a lot of time irrigating the fruit trees, rotating the animals though the pastures, weeding, digging irrigation trenches, fixing the fence, harvesting fruit and jam making, etc. In the fall we harvest grapes and olives, cut and stack firewood, care for the animals, do orchard work, etc. Farm work is mostly outdoors, manual, and is often physically challenging, so we want people to be aware of this before volunteering. Expect to be tired! We do work hard, but we don't ask people to do any kind of work that we don't also do ourselves. We usually do farm work an average of 6 hours a day, 6 days a week as is standard in WWOOF Italia. For example, a WWOOFer staying at LocalitÓ il Piano 10 full days would have 6 days on, 1 day off, then another 3 days on. Hours depend on the season.... we work cooler mornings and evenings with a midday break to avoid summer heat, but tend to start late and work straight through midday in the winter when days are shorter. Outside of working hours WWOOFers are expected to do their part of household chores like meal preparation and clean-up.
While you're welcome to bring a tent, most WWOOFers prefer to sleep in a very large apartment in the basement of the farmhouse (cool in the summer, warm in the winter!) which has its own bathroom and kitchen. Usually we can offer slow WiFi access, which is adequate for checking email but not for downloading/uploading large files: plan on doing any Skyping or video watching in town (Spoleto or Norcia) rather than over the farm connection. Accomodations are simple but decent, comparable to a youth hostel. We supply simple single beds with mattresses (there is one double bed) and are happy if you can bring your sleeping bag though we can loan you linens if you need them. WWOOFers prepare some of their own meals (we provide the food) and other times we all eat together upstairs in our kitchen or picnic in the fields, mostly vegetarian meals. For example, often we all eat dinner together while WWOOFers prepare their own lunch. If you have special food needs such as being vegetarian, vegan, or having food allergies, please let us know when you contact us. You may want to bring special foods, like soy milk.
Other than enthusiasm and energy, the two absolute necessities are sturdy hiking boots and valid WWOOF Italia membership card. Remember to pack old clothing for fieldwork including sun hat, rain gear, etc. Though it can be quite hot in the summer, most people prefer to wear lightweight long-sleeve shirts and long pants for protection from sun, insects and brambles. Winter can be very cold: bring warm layered clothing. Be ready to get dirty!
We are located in central Italy, about 25 minutes by car or bus outside of the town of Spoleto (population ~38,000), in the province of Perugia, in the region of Umbria. Our sparsely inhabited valley is a great place to hike and explore, with lots of old mule trails and abandoned towns. Many WWOOFers choose to explore Spoleto in their time off, which is very culturally active and has a lot of interesting features like Roman ruins, 14th-century castle, and an ancient bridge-aquaduct. We're within easy day-trip distance of Assisi, Norcia, Perugia, and Rome.
You're in charge of getting yourself and your luggage to and from the farm! Fortunately this can be done by public transit plus a short walk. Most WWOOfers travel by train to Spoleto. It's easy to get to Spoleto from Rome as there are many trains each day (1.5 hr, ~7 euros). From the Spoleto train station you can take the public bus (20 min, ~3 euros), followed by an approximately 500 meter steep uphill walk from the bus stop to our front door. See our contact info page for train and bus schedules as well as more detailed info on how to take the bus and find our house.
The WWOOF Italia coordinator once described our farm to a potential WWOOFer as follows: "beautiful place, nice people, hard work"! After two weeks at LocalitÓ il Piano the WWOOFer agreed, and added "great food"! If this sounds like the kind of situation that you are looking for, contact us ahead of time by email or phone to see if we have room for WWOOFers during the dates you would like to come! Once you have confirmed your dates with us, we'll write you on the calendar and reserve a bed for you. At this point please consider it a firm commitment, as we do : we are counting on your extra hands and last minute cancellations can cause us problems. Thanks for being considerate.
gordondarcy @ gmail.com