WWOOFing in Stockholm
Fay Edwards takes us WWOOFing in Stockholm.
Travelling is a bit of a strange concept at times. Wandering around the globe, we seek new destinations and ways of life – little experiences to bring back home and remember.
But sometimes when we travel, we forget to linger and appreciate what we’re really seeing. Sights and smells pass by in a blur of checking off list and making the train on time.
So yes, we may have been to a new country, but did we really dig beneath its surface?
One way to make sure you do is literally dig into a country’s soil and go WWOOFing.
WWOOFing, or ‘Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms’, is an international program that enables travelers to work on farms in the country that they are visiting.
Volunteers can stay from a few weeks to many months, and depending on the farm they choose, can be involved in activities ranging from milking goats to planting permaculture gardens. Volunteers exchange free labour for free food and board, as well as the privilege of experiencing a country from the eyes and hands of the farmers who nurture its animals and crops.
WWOOFing opportunities in Sweden are as diverse as its geography, with small-scale family sheep farms that host 1-2 volunteers at a time, to big communal farms that run cafes and cultural activities. Sometimes volunteers will work from dawn until dusk, and sometimes volunteers will be rostered on for a few hours at a time.
Often, volunteers will come back every year, while others drop in for a short stint before moving on to their next destination. Almost any traveler will find the right arrangement to suit their interests and skills, but whatever the arrangement, WWOOFers can expect a warm welcome and an incredible experience.
For my WWOOFing experience, I chose a small farm situated just west of Stockholm. Fresh from the noise of the city’s streets and cafes, I stumbled off the train carriage and into the country.
Unsure of what my host would look like, I scanned the platform until I spotted a man with a big smile and straw falling off his jumper. A quick handshake and a happy hello, and we were putting my luggage into the back of the car – to snuggle comfortably in among the straw used for transporting goats to the forest.
As we wound our way through country roads we passed groves of birch and a patchwork of fields – all dotted with red-log cottages and summer blooms. My host chatted comfortably, before pulling up in front of the homestead – a big old red cottage sitting in a garden full of fresh flowers, waddling ducks, and clucking chickens. His wife opened the door for me as she cuddled a cat, and after a light snack it was time for bed before my first day on the farm.
The next day began with a Sunday tradition – Swedish waffles with homemade jam and crème fraiche, as well as a pot of coffee. After lingering over the crumbs my hosts told me to don my wellies and my jacket – it was time to see the farm!
Taking me around the workshops and barns, we met the ducks, the pigs, the chickens, goats and sheep, before picking cucumbers and squash from their huge vegetable garden. As a WWOOFer, I would help them look after the animals and garden for my two weeks with them.
Each day followed a gentle routine. In the morning we would wake up at 7am to feed the animals. First of all the impatient pigs had to be fed and watered, then the ducks, and then the chickens.
My first few days involved trying to remember which bowl to fill with what food and water, and which door to open and which door to close. But after this part of the day, my host and I would hop on bikes to cycle to a nearby field where the goats were kept.
Here we would milk the incredibly patient Bessy who suffered my awkward first attempts at milking her.
Once the animals were fed and happy, it was our turn. We would sit down to a warm bowl of porridge topped with jam and Bessy’s milk, as well as peppermint tea from the garden. After scraping our bowls clean, it was out onto the farm to weed, plant and water vegetables and flowers.
Sometimes we built fences, or took the goats to the forest to munch on moss while we foraged for mushrooms. At other times, when the rain decided to fall, my hosts loved to play cards over a cup of coffee and a slice of homemade cake.
Once the morning’s activities were done, we took turns cooking lunch – the main meal of the day. We used meat and vegetables grown on the farm, and during my stay it was a daily task to transform the never-ending supply of squash into something different and delicious.
Together with my friend from London, we made squash fritters, squash gratin, squash jam….squash bread. You name it, we tried it. And if there were any leftovers? Well, they went straight to the happy pigs, chickens or goats.
A quiet afternoon of gardening would often follow, before an early dinner of crispbread, homemade sourdough bread and goats cheese, as well as salad, pickles, pate and fish. But before the day was done, we would head out the door once more to milk Bessy and feed the animals.
Then after pulling off our wellies and jackets at the door, we would finally settle around the table to play cards, or snuggle under blankets to watch an episode of Midsomer Murders – before tumbling off to bed, ready for the next day.
My two weeks rolled around more quickly than I expected, with trips to the local town and special lookouts dotted in among my days ‘at work’.
And as a result of my time here? Well, I think I can claim to have dug a little deeper beneath Sweden’s surface.
More than sights listed in a guidebook, I have experienced Swedish life from its very roots – an experience that will linger with me long after my feet touch home soil once more.
Resources for WWOOFing in Stockholm
For my hosts’ profile, click here. You can try a permaculture farm or a communal farm that hosts many volunteers. And if you’re looking for experience practicing ‘Community Supported Agriculture’ (CSA), click here.