WWOOFing in France – Introduction

In this region of France, we just finished up our spring vacation a few weeks ago. I knew months ahead of time that I wouldn’t be able to afford a vacation like last year, but I wanted to get out of Paris. Hence, wwoofing!

What is wwoofing? World-wide opportunities on organic farms. Directly from their website, “WWOOF is an exchange – In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.” The French wwoofing site works like this: you pay €30 for 1-year access to the catalogue of farms needing help. Then you can browse ads by department and contact the farmers directly. (Each country’s website is different so look at the first wwoof site I linked to for further information on countries other than France.) After sending out a ton of emails, I found a goat farm that had an opening for the dates I wanted to go.

A few hours after arriving from Paris, Louise asked me to lead the goats to the pasture.  They kept bumping me and I was so scared!  By the end I was petting them.

A few hours after arriving from Paris, Louise asked me to lead the goats to the pasture. They kept bumping me and I was so scared! By the end I was petting them.

Having never worked on or really ever set foot on a farm, I had no expectations. My main goals for the experience were to learn about farming, do some real physical activity, and accomplish something. I didn’t expect to have such great conversations, eat such good meals, or learn so much.

The garden where I worked a lot, their house is behind the big tree.

The garden where I worked a lot, their house is behind the big tree.

From the minute I first met Gundula (German woman in her 50s), Louise (Dutch woman in her 50s), and Maëva (French woman, 25), I felt at ease and welcomed. They were so hospitable and treated me more like a guest than a volunteer. Soon after my arrival I found myself integrated into the routine of the farm.

The Routine of the Farm

between 5 and 6am: wake up. La Traite (the milking of the goats). Other things I don’t know about because I didn’t enter the routine until…
between 8-8:30am: breakfast. Homemade bread smeared with butter, homemade cheese, homemade jams, organic hazelnut spread, local artisanal honey, tea made by one of their local friends…
9am: clean la chèvrerie (the barn where the goats live). feed the goats. feed the other animals (1 horse, 2 pigs, male and baby goats). if it’s not raining, lead the goats to a pasture.
11am-2pm: miscellaneous activities that change daily. sometimes cheese-making, sometimes cleaning, repairs, gardening, cooking, host random visitors who came to buy goat milk, etc.
between 1 and 4pm: lunch. always a long, hot lunch of things grown on the farm or purchased locally with dessert and coffee at the end. then: work. same as miscellaneous activities above. go get the goats if they were in a pasture.
5:30pm: goûter (snack) – always a cake or cookie with tea or coffee.
6pm: feed the goats, La Traite.
8-9pm: showers, then dinner which consists of the same things as breakfast. always a matzah-like cracker spread with butter, fresh goat cheese, and jam or honey at the end (this is just a quirk of Louise and Gundula but I started doing it too). This is where my day ended.
10-??: Louise and Gundula continued working. feed the goats again. cheese-making. treat sick goats. etc.

The tree is a cherry tree! and behind it is my cozy little trailer

The tree is a cherry tree! and behind it is my cozy little trailer “le caravan”

Having a farm is SO MUCH WORK. They have been doing this 7 days a week for the last 15 years with only a handful of instances where they’ve left the farm for a vacation. Because I have so much downtime in Paris, I relished the opportunity to sweat and actually accomplish things, but I can imagine that it gets really difficult to keep going after more than a few months. By Sunday I was already having a hard time staying energized and that was only after one week!

Left: la chevrerie. Right: baby goat house

Left: la chevrerie. Right: baby goat house

I’m so glad I’m no longer ignorant of this lifestyle. There are farmers all over the world producing the food we need to survive, and without any connection to them it’s hard to be aware of the hard work they do and the sacrifices they make. No sick days for them, no Christmas bonuses…no real Christmas break either! The goats have to eat – constantly! The sad fact is that the financial compensation nowhere near matches the effort dispensed. Luckily, my hosts seemed to love what they do and were really committed to their lifestyle and career choices. Overall, they seemed really happy.

I loved being able to take part in such a local and organic-focused home. In my daily life, I do my best to stay away from food that has been transported very long distances and yes, I would prefer not to ingest a ton of pesticides and other chemicals with my food. However, most of the time this is not feasible in terms of my budget or surroundings. During these 9 days I was happy to be able to join in their lifestyle.

Coming soon: more posts and photos about my experience on the farm.

*Update: Click these links for my posts about Le Jardinage, Les Chèvres, Cheese, and my second trip there.

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21 thoughts on “WWOOFing in France – Introduction

  1. Maddy you are amazing!! That is so cool that you went and worked on a goat farm! I loved to pic with all the goats in the background. I can just imagine you there!! Miss you!

  2. Hey 🙂 I stumbled upon your blog when I was looking for tips about WWOOFing in France. I’m currently looking for a host and the goat farm sounds great, do you know whether they could maybe need help between January and March?

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  4. Hey maddy,

    I also found your blog by googling ‘WWoofing goat farm france’. And have a similar request as Sarah. Since the farm seems really nice! Maybe you can give me the some more information about the farme, so I can google and contact them about wwoofing.
    Thanks a lot in advance!

  5. Hi maddy!

    Looking into WWOOFing in France but I don’t speak any French do you think this is a major challenge? Also what is weather like in March/April?

    Thanks!

    • Hello!

      Awesome! It’s hard to say…Many French people speak at least a little English but it depends on the region. Your first obstacle would be navigating the website as it’s in French. Some ads are in English and some are written in French and English, and most specify what languages are spoken and whether it’s obligatory to speak French. So my advice to you would be to find a French-speaker to help you read the ads and find a farm with people who speak English (or other languages you speak)!

      The weather (generally) everywhere but the south of France is cold and wet. 😦

      Best of luck and happy wwoofing!

  6. Hi Maddy! A great read- I’m just about to set off WWOOFing round france and am looking for recommendations- would you be able to give the name of this farm, or of any others you’d recommend? Same question as many here! Thanks so much!

  7. Hi Maddy! I really like your blog, it’s very beautiful and I would like to know what is the location and what are the tips you can give me because I plan on going this summer with my mom and really need advice, I would really appreciate it if you would give a reply, I’m twenty-two years old and a college student and we’ve never had an experience with a farm before and this is the first time we are doing wwoofing. I would really appreciate your recommendations. Thank you so much for the beautiful job of your blog!

    Sincerely,

    Fay

    • Hi Fay! Thanks for reading! My tips are : go on the wwoofing website and choose a farm based on your needs and skills and whether they line up with what the farm is looking for. Bring clothes you can work in and get dirty in, bring proper footwear (sturdy boots/hiking boots or at least sneakers) and if you don’t have any or can’t bring it ask if the farm has extras to lend you. Bring a book or two for downtime. And above all be open and willing to chat and learn and share!

      Good luck!

      sweetmaddy

  8. Hey Maddy! I’m looking to WWOOF in France. Do you think this farm would have room in July/August? Thanks!

  9. Hello Maddy!

    My name is Nina. I’m originally from Sweden but I live in south-western Germany since 2008. I’m working here and finishing my education. I live on the french boarder and love the french mentality. I studied french at the university but since I started working I ain’t got the time for it, but I’d love to start learning it this autumn.

    I liked your blogpost about your farm in France!

    All in all, how was it?

    Did the hosts only, solely speak french? Wich I would prefer, to learn the spoken language quicker.

    You worked quite a lot, was it too much work or did they arrange it well with long breaks ect.?

    What did you do on your days off? How many did you have?

    How was the mentality, was it ok or was it difficult do deal with?

    Where your tasks divers? Did you have to pay or did you get payed?

    Where you the only WWOOFer on the farm?

    Pros & cons?

    About what should I be aware of choosing a farm in France? What should I NOT disregard?

    I would be SOOOOO greatful and thankful if you would answer my questions as a veteran wwoofer!

    I wish you a nice Saturday night, what remains of it 🙂

    Kind regards

    Nina

  10. Hi,

    Could you send me extra informations about this host because I would love to work on a goat form myself. Did you make a lot of cheese there because I would love to learn it!

    Kind regards

    Janne

  11. Hi Maddy,
    These posts about your time wwoofing are amazing! I have recently purchased a wwoof france membership and am wondering if I could have some more info about this farm, as it seems like a place I would love to visit 🙂

    • HI Abby, have you been on your WOOFing adventure in France yet? Keen to hear any recommendations you may have on hosts.
      Thanks

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