USE OF WWOOFERS and Interns

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by jdaley, Mar 25, 2017.

  1. jdaley

    jdaley Junior Member

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    I have been an observer of self reliance and permaculture projects from the early days, always trying my best to have something working myself.
    My vision of a self sufficient property included a sustainable set of economics so it could run forever. With available manpower meeting almost all the needs of the household.
    But as I now have been attending PC properties and turning up to events I see an image that is different, it seems as if the only 'successful' pc properties rely on woofers, volunteers or interns and that just does not look sustainable in the long run.
    I am aware I am a product of the old world of wages, workforce employer and staff and to see organisations needing assistance at costs much less than the old world economy can work with seems odd.
    Its almost as if 'slave' labour is being used.
    Yes I know labour, board and knowledge is being swapped and shared but can those who are the woofers, volunteers or volunteers ever step up to ownership in a future, or be able to live also in the old world if they have no cash etc..
    I am not trying to make a philosophical stand against the practise, I just want to hear how other people see it?
     
  2. Timcognito

    Timcognito New Member

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    Good question John

    for me, I wasn't sure I wanted to be a WWOOF host as you are inviting people to become really quite intimate in a number of ways... you share your life, your family (I have two young girls 2 and 6), your meagre resources (we subsist on less than 10,000 euros p.a.) and for what? Work that you HAVE to carry out whether you have a volunteer or not. You get commitment from people who don't turn up (at least 50% of the time) and then end up turning down others as you believed that you had already got a volunteer filling a period... you also spend a lot of time explaining jobs, when you could be doing jobs and quite frankly you can end up with complete numpties!

    BUT, many people don't get the exposure to Permaculture or country living, or organic growing in there "normal" lives. Some people from inner cities, or large families, or single parents really benefit from this kind of exposure. We as hosts get to meet some dynamic, interesting, challenging, thoughtful, hard-working, beautiful people. We learn from them as much as they learn from us, truly! It shouldn't be viewed as work so much as experience of a different way of living. It should be a gateway for those that can't otherwise reconnect with the land, with nature, with what it is to plan, plant, grow and consume food free of chemicals, additives and packaging.

    We shouldn't view this in economic terms... everything is measured or quantified in economic terms in the modern world and quite frankly, it sucks... why attach a value to human labour when you can simply "freely associate" with other likeminded people, with a view to working together, achieving common goals, learning new skills and breaking bread together.

    Am just sayin... some food for thought. Tim
     
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  3. Anabel

    Anabel New Member

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    If you go back far enough in (European) history, apprentices didn't get paid. In fact, it often cost money to become an apprentice. But they were learning valuable skills that would qualify them as journeymen who could make a living from their craft and possibly even as Masters who could tale on apprentices.

    In a world of one-size-fits-all education, we tend to forget that unregimented forms of learning - including wwoofing - are an education too. Some wwoofing opportunities are clearly opportunistic on both sides (I've travelled for longer by chamber-maiding for my board) but most are educational opportunities: Free labour = free learning. Is mucking out a barn or trampling mud into tires to make a house any different to grinding chemicals into oil paints or cleaning newly-killed skins and soaking them in urine? They simply reflect the differences in contemporary vs medieval technology/lifestyes and internet communities vs guilds.

    My main gripe with wwoofing is that coming from Australia my school holidays are in European winter so no one needs me! I've au paired though (which pays board and pocket money but can be total servitude if you get the wrong family) which gave me the chance to learn German with a wonderful family who I stayed in contact with for nearly 20 years and still visit whenever I have enough money to get across the globe.

    I hear what you're saying about sustainability though. I know a family in rural nsw whose farm runs mostly on wwoof labor while they have full time jobs to pay the mortgage. Does this make their life style unsustainable?

    I'm not sure. Is this this question even relevant? Do we only ask because we are bred to think of economics as a closed system? France thinks so - they tried to ban wwoofing cause they can't tax it! (Anyone: did they succeed?)

    I guess the question is about the participants value systems and what they think the labour : teaching/learning ratio is worth. And whether you consider intangible things like values and lifestyle as an education.

    I got about 10 loaves of bread a week worth of pocket money for a chance to live in a village on the edge of a forest with an awesome family, and a place to stay, wash my clothes and eat for free while travelling. Plus a bonus, I had to learn to cook vegetarian food - a challenge for this rabid carnivore. As an unskilled 20 yr old, this seemed adequate/reasonable for 8-10 hrs cleaning/cooking/babysitting 5.5 days a week.

    They got help when they needed but did a fair amount of teaching (cooking, babies, how they wanted the house cleaned) at the beginning, and did a whole lot of ongoing language teaching and counseling (since I was a pretty messed up kid at the time). The fact we're still friends shows it was successful. I guess it's similar to people who return to wwoofing year after year.

    I didn't stay there though - I grew up and became a teacher and don't use much I learned - or do I? Many of the values I learned with that family are still part of my psyche. In fact they are probably part of why I'm here learning about how to make permacultural use of the 2x10m bit of land that comes with the house I just bought. And stuff I learned about managing those 3 kids helped when I first started teaching. I don't teach German any more (no female in Australia) but I do still someone's read it (esp. online) and some of those earning were the deposit for this house.

    This is rambling a bit, and I haven't answered you query about slavery. In essence, yes. Almost all Western civilisation is currently based on slavery (cause what else can you call subsistence wages in less developed countries) and environmental degradation which make manufacturing cheap enough for us to spend money on education, law or leisure.

    And with the price of land so high that few can afford to buy it, yes, we do reproduce the slavery system. Except - it's voluntary slavery and it includes apprenticeship. To me, that makes it way better than the coporate servitude of most Western jobs which frequently involves little learning and management-serving values. And a whole lot better than many people in Africa India or Asia.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2017
  4. jdaley

    jdaley Junior Member

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    Interesting input Anabel, food for thought, thank you
     
  5. Carol

    Carol New Member

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    Bill Mollison often stated that it was easy to get property donated for permaculture purposes. There are many wealthy people who want to donate properties to good purposes. I guess we need to find out how to contact these people.
     

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