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319. WWOOF-USA® | Samantha Blatteis | Special Programs Manager
17th May 2020 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:09:06

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Samantha Blatteis

Special Programs Manager


I'm not even sure we're gonna find someone this summer... because it would have to be someone camping in Montana? My listeners are bigger gardeners. I do have a lot of new listeners after being on the Melissa Norris Pioneering Show. I would think people might have a lot of questions. I'm the kind of person who goes through the Terms and conditions more then most.

I think people will be excited to hear that there is an actual person who calls.

We interview all the new hosts. As the host you are the one accepting people into your homes and lives

we want to make sure our minimum hosting criteria.

Go through your listing point of areas and use a bit of more explanation

Confirm that you know what our hosting criteria are and have a plan to meet them.

this is a great opportunity to

to gives some pointers and tips and best practices that we've learned from hosts after several years of hosting

pass it on to the new hosts from the get go 

There are some easy things to do to make the WWOOFing experience great for both host and wwoofer so that's

the goal of the goal of this call

Make sure you aware of what our standards are to make sure you are a good fit for the program.

So do you start by asking me questions.

"My first question for you is how did you first hear about WWOOF and what made you sign up to be a host?"

Well, I probably heard about it before, since I started the podcast, this would be episode 319, so I have talked to 318 people, and a lot of the people I have talked to who are farm managers, who worked at someone's farm or own their farm now. One of the greatest interviews I did, with Jeremy and Neke and they would do 2 days here and 2 weeks there and 2 days there, and traveled all of South America plus learned from a variety of different people. The experience level was exponential by being at all these different farms. 

For example I interviewed Ellen Polishuck who had her own farm and now teaches people about working with interns. Our goal is to plant as much as we can this year because there could be giant food shortages this fall and people needing food and we have a lot more space then Mike can care for himself. So if we can grow more this year with some help that would be great.

That's what so great about the WWOOF program

People who want to be gardeners or farmers themselves someday can go get that experience and if they want to try out a bunch of different farms and set ups. One of the great tools

WWOOF offers is you can go check out from different set ups

starting out and get experience as that well hosting side your not always leave and travel

farmer or gardener

tend to your animals or crops

You can invite people to come and learn and participate with you

own experience and tips and tricks

both ways

host other farms


your in Montana so you probably have some cold winters. We have lots of hosts that are in colder climates who go

WWOOF themselves during their cold season, whether that’s out of the country or somewhere warmer.

host during their own growing season

I have talked to several that went to Hawaii, I talked to people who went to Hawaii and stayed in a tent and those who went to more formal living spaces and I was like what stayed in a tent? The interesting part was they were like 3 hours from the beach, they had to hitchhike to the beach or something but they could see the beach...

Past Hawaii WWOOF Interviews

so that is what this call is about

tips for setting the expectations for people visiting your profile and the 

 wwoofers get to read about and experience from visiting you from your profile

some type of application or interview process in place so that you are directly communicating what will happen with the dates that they are interested in

so like you were saying if someone thinks they are going to be Wwoofing in Hawaii and think they will get to the beach every day for a half day after working their morning, so it's important to be asking those questions

definitely feel free ions

ask questions of their

what there is to do for your time off

So when wwoofers find your listing in our directory they will be able to decide before contacting your site they might think this is the best fit for what I am looking for or maybe they want to do something different and move on to another profile. 

So you need a few more required fields on your profile

 Wwoofer hosting criteria

as a host you are expected to provide

I read on your profile that wwoofer woofers will be bringing a camper or camping in a tent and sharing your bathroom.

It is definitely cold in Montana at nights. They would want to be able to have a stove or some heat at night. Ideally they would have a camper to hook up. But yes they would have to share our bathroom and kitchen. 

extra bedroom

all of that is ok,

clearly explained

lots of communication and about what they can expect when staying on your farm.

For food did you have a plan for how you would share meals or provide for wwoofers.

It's funny how you said that about an application or questionaire, I was thinking about creating something like that because in our situation it would have to be a very specific person that would get along, but then I also think it would only have to be one person or a small family, I think my husband would want someone who would be here for a season, not opening our place up to a lot of different people.

I mean we have 20 acres, there is a cabin on the other end of our property. I mean there are lots of gorgeous camping sites between their place and ours. There are places they could camp close to a spigot or they could have their own. It would take a specific person. I wrote down that Mike eats meat and I'm a pescatarian but I could cook vegan but then I also thought I would have to point out, Mike eats meat but we don't eat meat every day or maybe he would eat meat once a week. 

I just feel like if we found the right person it would all work out. They could use part of the fridge. Or if they want to eat, we seem to have excess of food all the time.

share those expectations ahead of time.

so they know what would be there ahead of time

share meals with our family

space and ingredients to cook their own. 

That would be discussed with individual ahead of time by:

  • setting expectations
  • talk with an individual person

Do you like cooking? And rather eat your own meals

I can share that a lot of hosts do a combination 

  • share one large meal a day
  • other meal
  • other meals are on a wwoofers own

that’s when they have their own cooking space

encourage to think that through and include in your profile

so you are going to attract the right

Perfect what's next?

providing lodging and meals is one of our requirements but the next one is using and sharing and organic methods

I saw that you said your husband is the gardener ask what a WWOOFer could expect to learn in the effect of sustainable growing methods if they visit your farm.

We're not certified organic, and we even were debating the other day if he got manure that was from cows that were not specifically fed organic hay that had not sat for 3 years yet, was that organic our food grown with it? I can say were gonna do our best to use the most sustainable methods, he's been doing more no till experiments this year, putting tarps down and not using the roto-tiller. Mike always rotates crops.

We grow cover crops and use compost we have here. I always say our chickens are for the manure, we did have a grizzly bear come in last fall so we only have one chicken now. Mike's been gardening for over 40 years, when we started out we didn't even have running water, we have 14 fruit trees so they would learn how to take care of fruit trees, grow vegetables, last year we wrote the Organic Oasis Guidebook. 

I'm the organic eater so I can share a lot about growing herbs and cooking with them. Mike has always been a great boss as far as I have seen, we live on Christmas tree land and always people would work with him to get firewood or cut trees were super happy. It was hard work but I always knew him to be fair and a great boss. He has so much information to share, you would learn a ton about Earth friendly techniques, we try to be organic.

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We don't actually go to market, we just don't have that much extra produce, I was hoping this year maybe we will have enough, and if he had a helper, maybe we could, but I can never figure out how we would even have enough water to grow that much. Our school this morning they said they were all gone by 9:00 and he was surprised that it was seniors who came to get food. I don't think it's gonna get better? IDK. We just want to grow as much as we can here this year, Mike can't do it all by himself.

certified isn’t a requirement, a lot are not market farmers, some are just homeowners doing this as a lifestyle

 wwoofers are learning those natural techniques

that’s great

along the teaching side sounds like he has a wealth of experience

often use that to get a first exposure to this lifestyle

organic farming

have not ever spent any time, and make sure that you are prepared to 

  • teach and instruct
  • supervise the way you want them done

The Little Gardener: Inspire Children to Connect with the Natural World 

I just got off the phone who wrote a book called the Little Gardener about working in the garden with kids and her last piece of wisdom was have a little grace. Like if you are out with your 5 year old and you run back to the house to grab your scissors and come back and the seeds are sprinkled everywhere just try to celebrate what does grow.

Mike is going to make sure things are done HIS WAY. I did do an interview withJean Martin Fortier where he talked a bit about working with interns making sure your contacts are right. And this woman here in Whitefish who has always had interns. I think if we can find the right person it could be a good fit. I always feel like the perfect interview happens just the right person in the audience. I think we all need to make sure we give all a little grace.

yes but also what you were saying about getting as much of the getting to know ahead of time, is something I do want to stress

what will happen when your profile goes live. I will point out there are just a few missing components that still need to be completed

once it goes live

you will be able to receive messages with wwoofers 

have an application in place

scheduling a phone call similar to this

looking to get out of the experience

looking for from them

and making sure that’s a good fit

Not only will you get along personality wise

confirming your expectations are of each other

good fit

We have found from years of experience that the few times someone decides after two weeks and realize it is not a good fit, I think a lot of those could have been avoided is if you have those conversations

them not feel comfortable

weren’t expecting

leave early

best for you

or for them

most of those situations can be avoided with conversations

Either you or the wwoofers can end it is always your right but that usually isn’t necessary extra steps to get to know one another ahead of time

host forums that you will have access to once your form is approved where the other hosts have shared their methods for getting to know ahead of time it's a good place to get advice from hosts who have been doing a long time

sample questionnaires I am happy to send along, I can put in an email when I send you a follow

Can I share that in the show notes or is that something you have to register to learn? And there are local options there are called day worker?

for wwoofers that come for one day

stay long term

The general expectation is the wwoofers contributes a half a day for each day they are rather. We have put the expectation the wwoofers work 4-6 hours per day of stay.

over the course

if they are staying longer

1/2 a day for 5-6 days a week

25-35 hour range a week.

anything more then that should not be expected

wwoofers want to keep helping

see their host

as long as it is not expected


host that say doesn’t have a lodging set up to invite people who are in their area who can commute who want to work for half a day they can stay for lunch or take some produce home with them

provide with some hospitality

setting up a recurring visit for someone in the area is a great way to build a connection

great for the wwoofers who don’t have time to go on a long commitment to learn that way

option for a host

host long term


who dont have the way to provide lodging

host people in local area?

Do you get people who live in cities who are just like backyard gardeners?

we don’t have that many


we also have hosts that are urban farms, where they have a larger area

lodging could be with different volunteers in the city. We have hosts in every single shape and size set up out there

Are you seeing a bigger interest with the quarantine? And how does that work if someone comes to stay at your place do they have to quarantine in place. We are opening up in two weeks, but they shut it down because so many people wanted to come stay at airbnbs to stay out the quarantine in Beautiful Montana and the Governor was like nope!

we are encouraging people to follow stay in place

stop the spread

at the same time a lot of our hosts are essential food, a lot of them wwoofers on their farms

hard to tell

travel is definitely down

at the same time there are hosts that need to safely host wwoofers who can self quarantine for a couple of weeks and they can providing food for their community

We are definitely seeing a really high interest in gardening and farming through our social media especially as people want to be in an open area and essential skills

may not be for all people to hop in their cars now

We are continuing to encourage people to shelter if they can and they are in a safe place

host wwoofers

not trying to tell people how to run their farm we are just a platform that helps people make these connections and helping people get their profiles finished like you.

memberships only averrable to registered members

full profiles

signed up with the program

membership is $40 for a single or $60/couple

families with minors can be under the account of their legal gardening

social profiles

usually your membership lasts for a full year

membership for a year and half for the same price so as travel restrictions 

still go wwoofing

to sign up to go up go wwoofing it's $40-60.

to be a host we do ask for a sliding scale contribution from $20/50

accident insurance policy which we provide whcih really benefits the host

while a wwoofers is staying with you, any accident that could potentially happen they would be reimbursed for medical expenses if something happened in relation to the