My wife and I have been reading a lot about permaculture and the WWOOFing experience and it all really intrigues us. We would love to do it somewhere in the USA, we are currently in South Florida... We have two small boys ages two and three, any suggestions as to what age would be appropriate to have the kids come with?
As a wwoof host, I would say that young children are a tricky thing. I would rather host wwoofers without children, as children slow the parents down (and depending on the child, they eat without working). I am, like many farmers, financially cautious, and slow workers with complications may not be worth it. If the parents are working, who is watching and caring for the children? Insurance issues are also a bummer.
I don't say this to extinguish your fire, wwoof is a great program and I am sure many farms would have you. I would at least wait until the children are old enough and responsible enough to behave well and entertain themselves for long periods. Half a day is a long time for a 2 and a 3 year old.
we think kids are very usefull teachers in communities. several groups actually also arrange for activity for children alongside working parents. our group, for example started with women who are all working mothers and some fathers! . we had them running around in the woods and learn to work on their own by imitating nature, if they were too young, someone played with them and learnt, by watching...
We are WWOOF hosts and one of our best experiences was with an American family - Mum, Dad, an 8 year old and an 18 month old. They worked it out that if Dad worked in the morning (with a bit of help from the family if the children felt like it) and Mum was carer, and then Mum worked in the afternoon whilst Dad was the main carer. It worked out well and there were actually a lot of things that the children got involved in, even the little one (she put all the onion sets in the holes that Daddy dug). I guess it depends very much on the farm and what's going on. For us, we don't have lots of machinery, we do have lots of animals but no big ones, we home-educate our own children so there's always others to play with. Just ask lots of questions, be clear on what you guys need from your hosts and what you can offer them in return, and go for it.
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
Well, I didn't mean to seem like a Debbie Downer. I love kids and value their contributions immensely. I have four of my own, teach preschool, home educated my oldest for 8 years and intend to do the same with the little ones. They are involved in many aspects of our farm.
My experiences with parents of young children have made me a little cynical, I think. I can picture a few families that I would love to host as wwoofers and you are probably one of that type. Still, the majority of the families I know with little ones are not people I would choose to have come work with me, just as the majority of friends I have are people I love dearly but would not choose to hire.
We don't use much machinery here either, a twice a season gas mowing is supplemented by a reel mower, I use sickles and a scythe and knives, we have a trampoline and a pool(we do have a lot of fun), there are just dangerous things around. My children know pretty well how to be safe, even the two year old twins, but I know first hand how quickly children can get into things. A lapse in attention of the parent in charge could result in tragic circumstances for a child or for insurance premiums.
The one-parent-at-a-time plan is a nice one, and I could see it working nicely. It seems like it would work nicely for a working arrangement but for me a family vacation where I spent my days away from my husband wouldn't be my first choice. As long as the host is flexible about when the work is done, I could see it working out well for everyone. I hire a mother's helper for the times when work is happening so I can work with them. I find supervised work to often be much better, but every farm and every season and each wwoofer is so different.
I only mean to be practical, not cynical. On the wwoof host forum I have read stories about the good and bad experiences that hosts have had and have decided to be extra cautious. I have had a great experience with all but one wwoofer and she left early on her own anyway.
Best of luck to you, don't let me deter you from trying, I bet you could find some willing hosts and a great time. If you want to try it now, start looking now, I guess!