What is WWOOF?
WWOOF is a unique experience!
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) gives an opportunity to volunteer in organic farms.
Learning process, food and accomodation is offered by farm as a return for the work of volunteer.
The Aims of WWOOF are
- To give you first hand experience of organic or other ecologically-sound growing methods
- To give you experience of life in the countryside
To help the organic movement which is labour intensive and does not rely on artificial fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides.
To give people a chance to meet, talk, learn and exchange views with others in the organic movement
To provide you with an opportunity to learn about life in the host country by living, and working together
Farms who have joined WWOOF Estonia are registered organic farms, mainly pursuing a simple, sustainable, lifestyle. Many are practising Permaculture or Bio-dynamic growing methods. Some farms are commercial producers, whether full or part time; others are alternative co-operatives or communities.
The help you give your host will be wide and variable, including ... sowing, making compost, gardening, planting, cutting wood, weeding, making mud-bricks, harvesting, fencing, building, typing, packing, milking, feeding.
The help you give is an arrangement made between you and your host. You should negotiate beforehand with your host so that you know what they expect from you and the sort of volunteering you are happy to do. Do NOT arrive at a host's address without having arranged your visit with them beforehand.
The volunteering involved should not be exploitative of either WWOOFer or host. Often hosts themselves work long hours 7 days a week, and may expect you to do likewise. We suggest a fair exchange is 6 hours or solid help per day, 6 days per week, with a full day off each week to relax and explore the area.
Remember that it takes a lot of energy and forethought for hosts to welcome strangers into their home. Your work is in part a repayment for their commitment to making your stay possible.
The principles of organic farming
Organic farming is a natural mode of food producing, based on balanced nutrient cycle and usage of local renewable resources. The idea is functioning in harmony with the nature, not on account of nature. Problems, emerged in conventional agriculture need solutions that are exeptable both environmental and economical aspects. It doesn´t mean returning to the past, but interaction of traditional methods, modern scientific and technological information.
In conventional agriculture, the agroecosystems have impoverished in the course of time, because of continously intensifieng producing and narrow specialization. Ecological agriculture is based on principle that complexity and diversity keep systems stable. Therefore it is essential to raise many different cultures and animal species, to retain natural areas and promote natural edges of the fields. Raising different cultures and varieties is important because in the course of time the insurance against damagers is changing. It also reduce economical risks of the farmers.
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Management principles of organic farming:
- Principle of health
Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible. The health of individuals and communities cannot be separated from the health of ecosystems - healthy soils produce healthy crops that foster the health of animals and people. Organic agriculture is intended to produce high quality, nutritious food that contributes to preventive health care and well-being.
- Principle of ecology
Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them. Organic management must be adapted to local conditions, ecology, culture and scale. Inputs should be reduced by reuse, recycling and efficient management of materials and energy in order to maintain and improve environmental quality and conserve resources. Those who produce, process, trade or consume organic products should protect and benefit the common environment including landscapes, climate, habitats, biodiversity, air and water.
- Principle of fairness
Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities. Fairness is characterized by equity, respect, justice and stewardship of the shared world, both among people and in their relations to other living beings. Fairness must be ensured at all levels and to all parties - farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders and consumers.
This principle insists that animals should be provided with the conditions and opportunities of life that accord with their physiology, natural behavior and well-being.
Fairness requires systems of production, distribution and trade that are open and equitable and account for real environmental and social costs.
- Principle of care
Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment. Practitioners of organic agriculture can enhance efficiency and increase productivity, but this should not be at the risk of jeopardizing health and well-being. New technologies need to be assessed and existing methods reviewed.
Science is necessary to ensure that organic agriculture is healthy, safe and ecologically sound. However, scientific knowledge alone is not sufficient. Practical experience, accumulated wisdom and traditional and indigenous knowledge offer valid solutions, tested by time. Organic agriculture should prevent significant risks by adopting appropriate technologies and rejecting unpredictable ones, such as genetic engineering.
The main characteristics of organic farming are:
- mostly plant cultivation and cattle breeding are practised together;
- using of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is forbidden;
- growth regulators and antibiotics are not preventively used on animals and organic animal feed and welfare standards are important;
- maximum utilizing of farms internal resources;
- enriching of soil with sufficient amount of organic substance and cultivating with suitable methods proper time;
- methods used against weed, diseases and pests, are based on natural processes;
- the main attention is on prevention (crop rotation, more resistant varieties, favouring natural enemies);
- biodiversity and environmental aspects of food producing are important (less greenhouse gases and loss of nutrients);
- no genetically modified organisms (GMO) are used;
- artificial food additives are not used in processing.
Different studies have shown that organic food contains significantly more vitamins, minerals and antioxydants. The levels of agrochemicals residues are almost nonexistent in organic food, it can appear because of the occasional contamination from neighbour fields.
Virginia Worthington summarized 41 research and point out that organic food contains:
· 27% more vitamin C
· 21% more iron
· 29% more magnesium
· 13% more phosphorus
· 15% less cancer-causing nirates
In conventional agriculture only impacts of single compounds of chemicals have taken account, the interaction between different chemicals is mostly unknown. Studies have shown that mixing of few traditional pesticides may increase the toxicity hundreds of times. In Estonia, the maximum number of different pesticides found in one food product is 8.
The price of organic food
Organic farming is much more laboure-intensive than conventional agriculture because human resources are used instead of agrochemicals. It also contributes highly to the welfare of animals and these aspects naturally influence the price of organic food.
The prices of products from intensive agriculture are artificial, the external costs (negative influence to the health and environment) are not taken account.
Water cleaning processes are very expensive, because different chemicals need different cleaning solutions. In some countries, for example UK, it costs more than 200 miljons euros per year . So if we care about tomorrow and think financially, it is cheaper to avoid the pollution than eliminate it.
Intensive agriculture as solution of famine
Intensive agriculture ruins fertile soils and cause other problems , it is not sustainable activity. The reason of staration is not the lack of food, but low income, unstable system of government (wars, disturbances). Citizens of such countries usually dont have finances to buy agrochemicals, but commonly they have enough human capital to practise organic farming. They need help by shareing knowledge and experiences of organic farming in other coutries.
Organic farming in Estonia
• 1989. was the beginning of organized organic farming in Estonia (regulations and validation).
• 1997. the term „ecological farming” and Ecological Farming Law were legally acceded by the government.
• Since 1998 the national organic product - label is implementated, to define organic products.
• 2000. the governmet started to subsidise organic farming.
• 2001. the government started to impelementate national quality control system over organic farming.
Organic farming quality control is carried out by Plant Production Inspectorate atleast once in year.
According to Organic Farming Registry (15. jan 2007) there are 14 organic pocessing establishments in Estonia. 29% of them practice in Harjumaa (North Estonia) and 21% in Viljandimaa (Centre of South Estonia).
From the beginning the number of organic production establishments has been on the increase. In the year 2000 we had 230 organic production establishments, now there are 1173 establishments, the growth has been more than 400%! According to the registry (17. jan 2007) many of them (139) practice in Võrumaa (Southeast Estonia). There are also many establishments in Saaremaa (129), Hiiumaa (126) and Tartumaa (121).
Land used for organic plant production: 737,70 sq km.
Main sorts: grass plants and cereal plants, together 90% of oganic plant production.
Organic animal husbandry: 33% cattle, 48% sheep.
About Alternativ Agriculture
Central Union of Estonian Agricultural Producers
Centre of Environmental Technologies
Rural Development Foundation
Plant Production Inspectorate
Veterinary and Food Board