Last year I spent three weeks working on an alpaca farm in the south of France. Every day I learned the ins and outs of herding alpacas, checking them over, weighing them, feeding them, separating the boys from the girls and working alongside a vet to give them medication and care.
That might sound a lot like a WWOOFing experience and being honest it wasn’t far off. There was around four hours of work on the farm each day which is about the same as a typical WWOOFing assignment, the only difference is I was being trained up to look after the farm while the owners went away.
“House sitting” is a relatively new form of travel but one that’s quickly growing in popularity. The idea behind house sitting is that you house sit or look after someone else’s home while they’re away. A typical house sitting assignment involves looking after pets as well and there are an increasing number of assignments that involve farm work too. Canada, Australia and New Zealand are some of the most popular countries for farm sitting jobs but France, the UK and Ireland are also places where they pop up as well. (Although it’s possible to find farm sitting jobs on a number of different sites online – forums, house sitting websites etc – the only dedicated page I’ve found that is frequently updated with new farm site is on trusted housesitters.com
The idea of my farm sit was two weeks of hands-on training, followed by one week of looking after the alpaca farm myself. This was essential as despite growing up in rural Ireland, I didn’t have any experience of farm work. The one week of work experience I did with a large animals vet wasn’t enough!
Farm sits are working holidays and most farm sits will require quite a bit of training. In the case of the alpaca farm, the alpacas were a business; they were there to produce wool that would be spun onsite to create clothing. Because of the value of the alpacas, the owners wanted to give quite a bit of training before they felt comfortable leaving the farm in the hands of someone else. Unless you have considerable WWOOFing or farm care experience, this will probably be the case for most people.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that while it was great being given the responsibility of looking after a whole small farm while the owners were away, it was far from a holiday. There are a lot of work to do and without someone else there to answer questions, it was slightly stressful at first. I only mention this last point to discourage people from thinking it’s a free holiday.