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advice for farmers thinking about interns/wwoofers

Posts: 30391
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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There are thousands of people willing to work on organic/permaculture farms for free or nearly free.  Many farmers have explored this path and found it too frustrating and have elected to no longer do this.  Here are two well known farmers that have had agreat success and this is their advice to farmers considering this path.

Doug Bullock and Jacqueline Freeman give advice to farmers thinking of bringing some interns/wwoofers onto their farm.

I get a slice of Doug Bullock's lunch time as he takes a break from being the guest instructor for a permaculture design course taught by Toby Hemenway.    The Bullock Brothers Permaculture Homestead (http://www.permacultureportal.com) is famous for being a powerful intern magnet.  Interns actually pay to go there.  As a result, the Bullocks get to pick from a large pool of interns wanting to go there.  And they have had excellent results with their intern program. 

Doug's advice includes:

Establish your farm before you get interns.

Don't ask your interns to do just the dirty work.

A lot of interns come from a priveledged background - be prepared for that.

Keep the work interesting.

Look for interns with some skills and maturity.

If you have three or fewer interns, you shoudl include them in your family.

A hot tob, sauna or pizza oven really helps.

Jacqueline Freeman of Friendly Haven Rise Farm (http://www.friendlyhaven.com) is famous for her beekeeping skills.  She tells me that in the last five years she has had more than 90 interns/wwoofers. 

Some of Jacqueline's advice: 

Give interns the work that matches their personality.

Praise interns when they have earned it.

Teach interns something every day.

Good food!

Fun with work.  A swim on a hot day  is a good idea!

To learn more about folks that want to come and work on your farm, visit the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms at http://www.wwoof.org
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doug bullock, why don't you get a group of untrained less middle class workers and see how they work, all those youths who get into trouble on the street. aññ the classes get done down either they are those usless good for nothing street kids or they are the spoilt children of mama and papa.  Either you get mature workers and ones of renown or you get ot luck and i dont know of any socail group that is composed of all good workers. bit is bad to talk about hw no good the poor are they dont have much to start with and if you go for them verbally then they end up with less and it is bad to call the middle class lazy to, the lless afluent may hate the more afluent but they copy them and if you emphasis how lazy they are you will geteveryone else sittign around in bikinis bitching all day if they can. Any way when the middle class becomes lazy it loses out they are usually pretty hard working, everyone is it is part of age to work more and more.  
    My experience is that class has not much to do with how hard a youth might work, having parents who make their children work does not  depend  on class it is depends on how your family is, maybe how spoilt your parents are, if they are spoilt they will get the chidlren doing a lot. If you wqnt children to do well at school it is better not to make them do chores. The chidren who get used to being the ones who do things do all the chores at home, will do the work for their children, who as a result are spoilt and will then get their children to work for them, so you  have to hit on the right generation if you want good slaves, though  some children in one family can have been made to do a lot more  menial work  than other brothers and sisters, so there is no simple equation fo rknowing who will work and who wont.  

    There are hard  realities that have nothing to do with the physical conditions of life the conditions type human basic necessities, if you dont work you wont eat, they have to do with our fellow inhabitantes on this planet and they are ugly and they are not ugly because others are selfish but because of even worse traits like being  absolute determination to dominate and others, to impose your own way of doing things and people o fhtis type are often cruel and they abound.
    I basic part of this cruel reality is people dont teach you things when you are adult, it may even be that their exist schol teachers who dont really want others to learn, that is a factor that is not usually turned over when considering the worth of teachers, imagine a teacher who believes that we dont want too many highly qualified people around and that way of thinking  is a very common in adult life, so why should not it exist at school? It is an idea that makes their job redundant but while they don't mention it what does that matter and they will be keeping the children off the streets.
    There are things called trade secrets people dont tell the secrets of their trade. There are also mecanisms that keep the class structure in place that have to do with not passing on information, that are not even very counsciouse, like it might be possible to just imagine a great porcentage of the population would not be interested in knowing what you know.
 having a highly able population i sgood for a country it is not good for the individual who wants to make sure no one competes for his job. cpontries need people who take risks who start new businesses families need people who take the safest path.
    i dont know how people justify not passing on information, maybe they think to themselves this god sort of people aren't intereted in much but foot ball. or make up, or think they would not understand whatever, that it would bore them and such. I imagine Martin Luther King would say, teach them even if it bores them, it is your responsability to pull others up with you. I have heard a bit about what he used to say but i have not studied him.  
    I have heard, as a reason for not passing on information in adult life, peple say, I read it for myself so you must read it for yourself, great i lopk after the children make sure the grannies dont get bored and cook while you read the news papar and then say i can read it for myself. Each person reading it for themselves is a time consuming way of pulling up the abilities of the group, it is much qucker to pass on information you have digested to others while you show them how to do it, than for them to read it up. It is helpfull to a group if each one reads an article say and they comment on the different articles at lunch. if each one reads five articles tha ti sa lot mor ehard work htan hearing about them, when you write an article you have to put in all the details so that people,  maybe the editor of the paper, can see its true, if you pass on the information you read that is often not the case.
   I pass on what I know and when those i know dont do the same by me that is a disadvantage to me, i consider it an uncaring attitude  on their part, if you care for someone you don't want people to think they are ignorant. Even if youdon't care for them it is mean to leave them looking ignorant.

    I have found people in all classes who have been educated to stand up for their rights to such a degree they are untreatable, maybe more in what used to be called working class, any middle class  parent who is intelligent wants the children to learn so they are less likely to bring them up to refuse to be taught anything by anyone. Though the minute you are more reasonable in any way your chances of being the boss are reduced so bringing up your children to be teachable is not totally intelligent.
      Those who are educated to stand up for their own rights an di know people who woudl be furiouse if you asked them to pick fruit without paying htem unless knowing you ere to their advantage in some way,  are those who have had the, "don't let anyone tell you what to do" sort of education, or "you are as good as anyone and dont let anyone tell you any different" an attitude that creates some arrogant people who are unteachable, it is not only that they are unteachable, it is that you can't even talk to them, you can't even mention your point of veiw without being accused of trying to change them.
   To talk more of crude realities, those in the population who keep their headds up keeping other peoples heads down, as well as not telling you things, will punish you if you insist on going on mentioning your own points of veiw. they wil try to keep you ignorant and try to stop your mouth. A crude realitiy is i get up because i keep you down, you are intelligent well how about making sure no one ever gets to find this out, how about frightening you and conditioning you to keep your mouth shut, and making sure that you learn nothing new by keeping you too busy to learn and out of the way of hte ocnversation of others to make sure you learn nothing from them. tThose last two are the ploys cathy's brother uses to shut down Heathcliff when the brother becomes the head of the family, they are also a normal parte of machism.  
     People who talk as if the harsh realities are, if you earn less you buy less, contribute to creating a smoke screen that covers the harshest of realities, other shall hold you down if they can. The book wuthering heights treats in detail multiple methods of destroying others.

      People say that it is paranoic to say anything that makes social life look like the jungle it is, they pretend that to be very specific about how life is like ajungle is to express exagerated points of veiw. the whole of tha class system depends on the mechanisms i am talking about, it is that normal that it is the way the whole seething mass of less middle of the middle class is kept in place and women too.

 if you get your self into the worker's seat you can do all the menial work and if you have the worse sort of boss get them nit picking what you do, the theory i sif they praise you you might give up, so you do the work and get the reputation of being a bad worker. The most prominent  charicteristic of adults is their constant talk of the work they have done and leaving to one side the leisure time they have taken, it is important to establish in other peoples minds how hard you work if you want to claim rests and holidays, it is nearly the most important thing you do of all of all as an adult if you dont do it you will have a bad timeof things.
  People talk about others being stupid, others aren't stupid but if you teach them that they are as good as anyone else without learning anything, if you believe that people just have things in them and education is silly, then they get stupid.
I fyou advide peope to try hard for hard task masters they may become slaves and if you teach them tnot to try for other they may become neer do wells.
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I've taken volunteers for years and I have never found class to be an issue at all! I also haven't found that people look for saunas or hot tubs!

I took my first volunteers the week after I moved into my place in the back of beyond in Bulgaria. I had no idea what I was doing and the three wonderful woman who joined me over the next month were the best introduction to volunteering that I could have had.

My advice for prospective hosts is to use a website to be clear about who you are and what you do so that it weeds out a lot of people that you're just not going to get on with.  Then use your own gut instinct when you get the first email - if they ask loads of questions relating to themselves rather than to the experience, then I get my first sense of whether they'll fit in.  In 5 years, I've only had two 'mistakes' - the rest have all been brilliant.

I make sure that volunteers get involved in at least one project that they can see through to the end as well as doing their share of day to day stuff.

I use www.helpx.net for most of my volunteers. 

Is it only Americans who use the term 'intern'? Does it actually mean the same as 'volunteer'?

rose macaskie
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     A trained farm worker is likely to be so much fitter than a student say and fitness helps you do long hours of work also physical work looks as if it is all to do with muscle power but think of rock and roll throws, they have a lot to do with balancing weights your own and that of your partners and building up momentum to swing your partner with and to do it you need practice. Think of how difficult it was to whip eggs as a child, using your body has something to do with your mind being able to orchestrate the movement and people can have a lot of muscles and not be able to beat a good quantity of mashed potatoes and i know that from experience, I once asked a big man to beat my mashed potatoes for me and he could not or only could slowly.
    The truth is that trained workers are better than untrained ones a farm worker is strong and once you have developed that strength the jobs are so much easier you can do more of them without getting exhausted, you can be strong without having bulging muscles.

   Would it be good to talk about fitness with wwoofs, i prefer calling them wolves it sounds more validating.  If the army takes on people, they know they have to get them fit, I think that women aren't taught to get strong and they should be, maybe men, in many jobs, aren't either, for writing say you need a strong back. If you teach about fitness won't that knowledge be something that is with the volunteers till the end of their days which will be an advantage that increases you cache as a teacher of of volunteers, as wwoofs are working for knowledge rather than money it is only fair to give it to them.

 I read about the diary of a man whose liked strong women and so talked about them a lot. This was at the beginning of the last century and he described how the girls used to come to London for work in houses with very princessy fine hands and such and how they got strong thick hands after a while dedicated to housework that was harder in the days of no washing machines and hard tasks were then asked of them like scrubbing the door steps on hands and knees with a scrubbing brush each day, mind you, if you did it every day it would not be so hard as the steps would be pretty clean already. Builders hands get very strong, in Spain i have seen builders with lean hands but English builders get very muscular hands which means much thicker hands.
   Some groups of people, me until recently for example, tend to think their strength is a constant so they could lose heart with a job that seems to hard at first and believe they will never be able to do it without killing themselves, when in fact they only need to be more muscular to perform it with something more like ease or less absolutely tiring results. Work is just so much easier once you have built up the muscle for it and it is not always even that painful building up muscles.
    I have got much stronger since my student days just by carrying around shopping and babies and such and that without realizing it. I suppose your cardio vascular system gets better too and so you oxygenate your muscles better if you are fit.  I like the idea of getting strong and doing exercise, so as i imagine i am not the only one who wants to be healthier, the chance to get healthy on the farm should appeal to some though, as not everyone is the same, you will find people who don’t give a tinkers curse about it.

Do builders for example, explain to young builders about getting fit, is it a subject that is more common in some groups, like among men but not girls for example, than in others?  Who wants a woman who can knock them over?

    I found i can lift many times what I can otherwise lift from the ground  if I bend over and hollow my back  and stick out my bottom, arching my back instead of tucking in my bottom under me. People normally tuck their bottom under them rather than arching their backs and keeping their bottom skywards when they bend over to pick something off the ground. Sticking your bottom up as you bend over feels rude when you do it I don’t imagine it looks too  bad though I will have to try in front of a mirror..

 Monotonous jobs are hard to handle psychically and time does not help that, not for me anyway, maybe care should be taken that people who do the manual work should have some time doing mental work, sifting ideas, being given adult conversation, at least in their time off time.
    Cathy Earnshaw’s (of Wuthering Heights) brother Earnshaw, sends Heathcliff his foster brother to work all day on the farm when he inherits his fathers land and also separates Heathcliff from the family at meal times, this brutalizes Heathcliff as he neither has time to study nor has hardly any conversation with the others after work which might improve him. His sorrow, anger, at his marginalization is also given as a factor that has brutalizes him, he walks around looking cross and worried about his future and so looks less attractive, worry can also so eat people up that they don’t give much time to other forms of mental exercise..

 I find it easier to manage working in the garden all day than in the house which makes me reflect that women’s work was pretty despised at home, not at all highly appreciated in my family, though it was expected of me, of women, good cooking was a appreciated still they did not think the person who did it was working. Maybe it is difficult to handle jobs that you never saw anyone get respected for in childhood, so be very appreciative of children’s housework or of the work of grown ups who do menial jobs in front of children and the children will enjoy the monotonous more when they grow up, maybe.
    Don’t say a takes five minutes to make it seem easier or les arduous when it take ten or twenty, being correct about the time a job takes makes people more real, it stops them from getting cross with themselves for being slow and makes them more proud of their work, after all they had to sacrifice time to it. Learning to be precise about the time a job takes will also teach them to treat workers right.
    Timing jobs properly and teaching others to, as much in the long run, how many weeks it takes to get fit, as in the short run, how long it takes to dig a potato patch is an important part of efficiency. Also counting the things you have contributed up is an important part of not being bullied, it allows you to say  it took me three hours so you can’t get cross with me I was not slacking or to say I am leaving this task master he is not fair in his evaluations which is being sure of yourself is a useful ability in life. It is important to demand a fair tally on the hours you put in as a volunteer such as those a woman puts in in house work, so that at least you get credit for it, in the same way as you count the money you get paid or have to pay for something, bullies take advantage of people who don’t defend their work and as time is money that is a sort of thieving. agri rose macaskie.

[Thumbnail for lifting.jpg]
Posts: 494
Location: St Paul, MN/Tularosa, NM and now a gapper at Wheaton Labs
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I merged your stuff with the following thread. I hope that is okay by you.
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Thanks Paul for the short film - thanks also to Doug and Jacqueline who give some good advice for potential hosts to consider. All the points they make should lead to a successful situation with volunteers.

The video is here:

I have been both a WWOOF volunteer and a host, so I recognise many of these points, having had to learn them myself. Just to summaries the points they make:

- Have a good working system on the farm before you get interns into help.

- Keep the work interesting and don't ask your interns to do just the dirty work. If you can teach interns something that interests them each day.

- Look for interns with some skills and maturity. Try to give interns the work that matches their personality/interests/skills.

- If you have only a few interns you should try to include them in your family as much as you can. But don't give up all your personal space. If you have lots of volunteers at the same time, you are best providing them with their own social space.

- Fun with work if you can and a swim on a hot day is a good idea! Also if you can have some interesting activites around like a hot tob, sauna or pizza oven that really helps.

- A lot of interns come from a priviledged background - be prepared for that.

- providing your volunteers with  Good food "speaks well of you!"

- Don't forget to praise people when they have earned it.

It would be good to get other comments from host about these points. Any others that we should add to this list?

Best wishes
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We've been helpx hosts for about 18 months and agree with everything said above.

We have found huge variety in the helpers we have had, but taking time to get to know each of them and their interests early in their stay is definitely worthwhile. 

Different helpers each tend to find a different helping niche for themselves here.

One just adored my flowers in the "good" garden near the house and tackled some of the perennial weeds that had infiltrated the beds..... fantastic job too!

Another didn't much like gardening but became a domestic goddess in my slightly hectic house.  Just quietly cooking up buns and treats and tidying my disorganised cupboards.... yes she asked, but I also let her get on with it!

Of course there are some fixed things that we ask all helpers to do, but then we allow quite a bit of flexibility for  each to develop their own helping style. 
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love this thread...so much wisdom from all of you.
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As the person in charge of finding opportunities for our tiny band(two adults and two pooches) of a permaculture-homesteading gypsies I too love this thread.
My partner and myself have spent the last few years spending time on other people land helping to build dreams(either ours or theirs).
We find lately that our efforts to find compatible partners has been tainted somewhat by our previous tennants(those that we follow as they depart the situation).
Adults getting along with other adults in the best of situations is difficult but finding away to "clear the slate" for all involved is a challenge but unless you can do that it will be difficult to make this arrangement work.
We are finding that so many of our potential partners spend a lot of time telling us what they "don't want" instead of just accepting each new situation as a fresh start.
Our advice is to forgive and forget. Accepting your fellow  humans are just that...human.
Posts: 1981
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Candy Johnson wrote:We find lately that our efforts to find compatible partners has been tainted somewhat by our previous tennants(those that we follow as they depart the situation).
We are finding that so many of our potential partners spend a lot of time telling us what they "don't want" instead of just accepting each new situation as a fresh start.
Our advice is to forgive and forget. Accepting your fellow  humans are just that...human.

I would find realistic that newcomers at a place just do that... accept that the persons receiving you are just humans, and that they might think "what those new ones are going to do that we don't want". And they try to avoid this by telling what they do not want. Just accept that they want to help you adapt, and that there is never any fresh start.

People think about adapting one to the other, but why not 1st think about adapting to the PLACE? Helpers do not know it when they arrive, and too often try to do their way, not thinking that hosts are in a fixed place with some constrains that have to be learned. How can hosts change their ways with each newcomer? How can they justify all that they do and have evolved into doing by knowing their place?

The best advice is to considere a place the same as if you go to a far away tribe with special habits: learn them. What is mere logic for all people travelling to exotic places, and the fun of learning new habits and discover new ways... pfff all this is forgotten when people go to a place they think is as being at home! Just because it is not exotic and LOOKS the same. And it is not. Just have the beginner mind, and accept to be taught. You might know a lot of things, but you do not know the place and WHY things are made this way and not other.

I advise to advise interns:
- to act as if they were visiting a strange and different tribe, and take the habits and ways.
- and to take time and ask the whys, but not all at once, there are things you will understand by doing them the way you are told, just by personal experience.
- and to find the middle place between blind following and total initiative: get the initiative but ask before you do it!
- Follow the rules as in a tribe: everybody has the same customs so that it creates a sense of harmony.
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