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WWOOFing Canada – Essential Tips From A Host

WWOOFers – I could write a book about my WWOOFing Canada experiences as a host. I hosted WWOOFers for many years at the ranch, and never kept track of the numbers that came through.

Some WWOOFers stayed for a couple of months and came back the following year, with many of them I became friends. Others were at the ranch for only a couple of days. They complained that this was not what they expected; I dropped them off at the bus station the next day.

WWOOF, Workaway, HelpX or wherever they come from, all these systems work about the same; young people working for room and board and learning about agriculture or other related work and new cultures. In other words, it’s young travellers seeking room and board abroad for free. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms but it has become a general term. Many Canadian small farms, resorts and eco-businesses are dealing with WWOOFers.

My horse ranch was attractive for volunteer workers over the years and my inbox was cluttered with inquiries daily. Who doesn’t want to live the Western Dream for a while and work on a ranch? And why not choose WWOOFing Canada for this experience?

Do you want to WWOOF in Canada?

So you decided to volunteer on a ranch in Canada and WWOOF is part of your travel plan. Working on Organic Farms is what you are looking for. You want to get away from the tourist route and experience the Canadian lifestyle and the culture.

First, you have to realize, that there are worlds between city and country lifestyles, and huge differences between city and country folks. You don’t know Canada until you experience both.

Whether you will have a positive WWOOF experience will depend partly on your background, what kind of life you are used to and your attitude. All the country people know: “We are a different kind of breed!” Whether you can adjust to our lifestyle will depend on YOU.

Know what to expect

Browsing the Internet you will find articles and reviews about disappointing WWOOF experiences. You will read stories about bad host places and wrong expectations. I believe that there are always two sides to a story. In some cases, the problem might have been the WWOOFer, not the host.

You think that you know what to expect, and you still might be wrong, totally wrong. This might not be the host’s fault, but the WWOOFer had wrong expectations.

Make sure that this doesn’t happen to you.

When watching the “Heartland Series” or any old Western movie, you have to realize, that it will not be like in the movies when working on a ranch.

Who is WWOOFing Canada?

Most people deciding on WWOOFing Canada are college students spending a gap year abroad. Many still live at home in a protected environment and want to experience adventure. Spending money is limited, therefore WWOOFing seems attractive. Travelling in Canada is expensive and WWOOFing is a great alternative and a money saver.

Arriving as a WWOOFer, you might get picked up at the bus station, or the airport, if you’re lucky. You will stay at someone’s home and get a place to sleep and all your meals. For all that, you have to do a bit of work, and in your opinion, have a cheap holiday experience.

What are the hosts saying?

How do some of us think about WWOOFers?

WWOOFing Canada, Workaway, and Help-Ex are excellent programs for young travellers, but they are not suitable for everyone. So please, do your research and don’t waste the host’s time if you have any doubts. On the other hand, if you know what you want, and you are flexible, open-minded and dependable, go ahead and contact the hosts that catch your eye.

We have plenty of Canadian woofing hosts in the area where I come from. Our valley is called Wwooferville by some. Out there in the country, we don’t see our neighbours often. When we do get together, WWOOFers are always a common topic. And what do the hosts say?

Here is an excerpt:

  • WWOOFers are lazy
  • Most of these kids are spoiled
  • They don’t know how to work
  • They have no skills but big expectations
  • We only take WWOOFers from certain countries.

Using the Red Flag System has helped me pick some amazing WWOOFers for my ranch.  It is an easy system, I look at your emails and check for red flags. If I find too many, I won’t be interested in hosting you.

Red Flag Guide for WWOOFers – how not to do it

The first impression I get from you is by your application Email. Reading it, I quickly know whether you could be a good match. Below you can see how I interpret an application email.

  • Hello (the host name is missing). – That tells me that the WWOOFer wrote a serial email to many other hosts. Red flag! Use the host’s name and make it personal.
  • Soon after the “Hello” I read about all the WWOOFfer’s hobbies, and what he likes to do, riding horses, looking after animals, hiking etc. – This WWOOFer wants a cheap holiday.
  • How many hours do I have to work and do I get weekends off? – This WWOOFer wants a cheap holiday.
  • I also get questions like this: Do you ever go to Vancouver? – Vancouver is a six-hour drive from the ranch and “No, I’m not taking you for a trip to Vancouver, but you can rent a car to go there”.
  • Do you go to the Calgary Stampede? – Calgary is a seven-hour drive from the ranch and “No, I’m not taking you to the Calgary Stampede, but you can rent a car to go there”.
  • Do you have Wi-Fi and can I use Skype? – Internet use is limited out in the country. You are looking for the outdoor life, don’t you?
  • I only eat organic – There will always be food on the table.

And what about that:

  • I’m from the city – No excuse, you can prove that you city people are okay on a farm as well.
  • I live with my parents – You better learn fast to do things yourself.
  • I have a girlfriend/boyfriend back home – She/he might not hear from you for a while.
  • I mainly like to work with horses/animals – Then you should book a ranch vacation.
  • I don’t like cooking, only baking – You will change your mind! Maybe I give you a cooking lesson.
  • Do you have spiders at the ranch? – Yes, and stink bugs and snakes.

Sorry WWOOFers out there, all of these questions and comments are red flags for many hosts in Canada.

If I’m desperate for help, I will check your social media profile looking for special skills useful for working on a ranch. Most times there are no special skills but instead, maybe special dietary restrictions and maybe some allergies.

If your host answers your inquiry email and shows interest you can ask further questions.

WWOOFers don’t work for free

You might argue that you work for free, that I don’t pay you. Wrong, you don’t work for free. You get to enjoy the comfort of my home, accommodation, and meals, how much is this worth? Check out accommodation, food prices and minimum wage in Canada and calculate the hours you would have to work to make it fair.

And if you’re only sticking around for five days and work four-hour days, at some places you might have to contribute for meals and your room. For only a few hours of work, don’t expect the weekend off and get food cooked for you. Not at my place anyway.

Farmers work hard and long hours. If you want to team up with them, do your part. My hard-working WWOOFers were always rewarded with trips to rodeos, shopping trips, a day at a horse auction, hiking in the mountains, and lots more.

Which Work Exchange should you sign up for?

Workaway or HelpX

Both have a similar database of hosts looking for volunteers to help with different projects. The hosts may be on farms, guest ranches, Resorts, B & B or restaurants. Workaway and HelpX have the same model. First, you create a profile and send messages to hosts you’re interested in volunteering for.

Although volunteers have to pay to register, it is free for hosts to create a listing. Therefore, there are no reasons for hosts not to take advantage of both websites. Since you will get a similar selection of hosts on either website, I recommend saving your money and only signing up for one.

The good part is that Workaway and HelpX allow users to browse the host listings for free before paying for a membership. Therefore you can check out both sites before you make your decision.

WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)

WWOOF, the first work exchange started in England in the 1970s.  As the name suggests, WWOOF is a database of organic farms owned by people willing to provide food and accommodation in exchange for a few hours of volunteer work per day on their farm.

The concept seems similar to Workaway/HelpX, but there are some key differences. WWOOF emphasizes that it provides an opportunity to learn about organic lifestyles. This means, if you’re interested in learning about sustainable farming practices, it could be a better choice. That said, numerous hosts on Workaway and HelpX offer organic farm stays as well.

What to bring along

Pack smart. Farming can be muddy and sweaty work. Depending on where you go WWOOFing in Canada, you might need warm clothes, a hat, and gloves.

Black coloured clothes are not ideal around cats and dogs because of the hair.

  • Old T-shirts and jeans
  • Waterproof boots
  • Rain gear
  • A hat or cap
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito spray
  • Working gloves (check with the host whether you will need to bring them)
  • Flashlight; in case your accommodation has no power and you have to use the outhouse at night
  • Pocket knife; a farm worker is never without one

Don’t expect five-star accommodation

Your accommodation might be in a tipi, a yurt, a bunkhouse or the hay loft of a barn. Maybe you get a cozy bedroom in the farmhouse or you might have to pitch your tent. At some host places, WWOOFers get to sleep in a stationary camper.

Be prepared to read with your flashlight at night or with a solar lamp. Get used to outhouses and composting toilets, they are common in Canada outside of cities.

Don’t get hysterical when you see a spider in your room or any other bug crawling up the wall, living on a farm at the edge of the wilderness, this can happen.

Water is scarce in some places and showers might be limited. Don’t freak out if this is the case, your working clothes don’t need to be washed daily.

Don’t be a tourist

Fit in and act like you are part of the team. It might be a culture shock first but it might turn into the best travel experience ever.

Don’t get annoyed if plans change daily, that’s farm life. Farm work is mostly dirty, physical work, and you might not be used to it. Give your best and you will learn a lot and gain the respect of the host. Just think about all the stories you can tell when you get home.

It will be hard work. The chance is that it will not be long before your romantic notions of farm work go away. Despite the odds, have an open mind and positive attitude, and you will have fun and an unforgettable Canadian WWOOFing Experience.

More Tips on how to enjoy a WWOOFing Experience in Canada

  • Don’t expect to show up at your host’s place and sit around in exchange for room and board, you have to work for it.
  • Be respectful. Remember that you are in somebody else’s home. If you are treated as part of the family, be grateful for it.
  • Clean up after yourself and politely ask before using anything.
  • If the host cooks for you, help with the dishes and clean-up. Remember that this is not part of your working day.
  • Follow the rule list, most hosts have one.
  • I always told my WWOOFers that my place was not a hotel or a self-serve restaurant.
  • Keep an open mind about the tasks that come your way. If it’s not exactly what you expected, so what?
  •  Don’t assume the host will have time to show you around the area. WWOOFing Canada hosts tend to be busy people. You might be a fair distance from the next town. Therefore do not expect tourist attractions and shops at your doorstep. That usually is not included in your WWOOFing deal.
  • Polite WWOOFers say thank you when the host does something for them, or when leaving the table. In my case, my WWOOFers sometimes ate together with my paying guests. Often my guest thanked me for the meal, but not the WWOOFers.
  • Culture shock or not, give it a fair try before complaining about your WWoofing Canada experience.

Check out my other Guide

Yrene Dee

Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.


  1. Roger vachon

    I lived in Alberta for 12years love the Rockies travelled and stayed throughout the Rockies. Worked with horses for nearly 18 years. Worked on farms know how to do any type of work related with horses this is the first time that I’ve heard about woofing not good with computers. It would be perfect for me as I love horses and the seclusion and the peace and quiet and tranquil. Could I get a telephone number for any ranch I’d love to stay in a bunkhouse please get to me Roger thanks hoping to here from you.

  2. Roger vachon

    Please would like to get in touch with someone with a ranch somewhere close to the Rockies :-)

    • Yrene Dee

      Hello Roger,
      Thanks for contacting me. Lots of ranches already have staff confirmed for the season. I’m assuming that you are a Canadian citizen or have a work work permit which makes it easier. A good way is always to drive to the ranches and inquire about work. Send me an email via contact form and I might have some more contact info for you.

      • cal wright

        Thanks very much as you say it to late for this year inquer for next year thank you very much for your time and I am a Canadian. Miss and love being with and working with and around horses. Stay in touch please. PS. I am using my friends email right now, trying to figure out how woofing works. :-)

  3. Hrishi

    I am going to Canada in a few months and would be most probably volunteering. This is very helpful, especially the differences you have made. Also, i came across another platform by the name Hippohelp. Have you tried that?

    • Yrene Dee

      Thank you; I’m glad the information is useful. Hippohelp is a new website and because their services are free, you may as well try them out. The choice of hosts might be limited. All of them are very similar and usually have the same hosts. If you try them, let me know how it goes. I will update my blog and add the new site. Good luck to you!

  4. FlooTravels

    Thank you for the straight forward info, Yrene! Much appreciated and rare quality of useful content these days!
    Currently I am searching for WWOOF hosts in BC. Are you also a host yourself?

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