World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (better known as WWOOF) is an organization linking volunteers to organic farms in over 100 different countries across the globe. In exchange for food and housing, volunteers help around the farm as needed. Through this program, volunteers spend time with their host family while learning about farming, sustainability, and culture in that particular country.
In March 2011, I found myself “WWOOFing” on a sheep farm in rural Germany for a month. Shortly after, I was working with a German farmer in the middle of Tuscany. Growing up in the suburbs, I was never truly exposed to farming. My experience on these farms really opened my eyes to the hard work that goes into farming and showed me a seldom explored side of Germany.
This cultural exchange allows for exposure to foreign communities at a very low cost. WWOOF is a form of cultural diplomacy, which can be mutually beneficial to both the volunteers and the hosts. The volunteers act as ambassadors from their home countries, while the hosts share not only their home, but their insight and culture.
There is no strict definition to cultural diplomacy. As we heard through Aimee Fullman’s presentation and read in our March 5th readings, there are many different facets of cultural diplomacy. In the passage by Jessica Gienow-Hecht, “Searching for a Cultural Diplomacy”, she states cultural diplomacy is “a tool and a way of interacting with the outside world” (2010, p. 11). Although it is not a typical mode of cultural diplomacy, WWOOF is a tool that may be used to interact diplomatically with others from foreign countries.