-Revee Needham ’18
Over winter break I traveled to Costa Rica to learn more about organic agriculture for my Alumni Memorial Scholars Project. Instead of spending all the days of my travel abroad experience lounging on beaches, I incorporated sustainability into my trip and volunteered at two organic farms, participating in two separate programs through World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and Osa Conservation.
WWOOF is a fantastic organization around the world that connects organic farms with eager and able-bodied volunteers. The basic idea is to exchange your work, between 2 and 8 hours a day, for a place to stay and some or all of your meals. Most countries have their own WWOOF website with separate membership fees to access the list of participating farms. Some farms will allow you to work for only a few days, others prefer you to stay a minimum of two weeks. After joining the WWOOF Costa Rica website, I reached out to several farms that matched my interests. In the end, I decided to visit Planet Costa Rica. This vegan farm is a sanctuary for injured or retired animals. I worked 5:45am to lunch and then had the afternoons off to explore the local area. Not only did I get to care for numerous animals, I also made great friends. This experience challenged my relationship with animals and showed me how easy it is to be vegan. WWOOF-ing is a great way to travel abroad, or locally, for little costs and great benefits to local farmers.
For the rest of my winter break, I signed up to volunteer at Osa Conservation through their organic agriculture program. They also have volunteer programs focusing on sea turtles, big cats, reforestation, and rivers. I worked on the farm most mornings, helping to plant, harvest crops, and befriend the baby goat. I learned about the challenges of organic farming in Costa Rica, where pesticide use is higher than the U.S. Overall, the work was a lot more time and labor-intensive than I would’ve thought. Also, I learned about the devastation of November’s hurricane on the farm’s crops.
For those who prefer to do less work on vacation, you can also stay at Osa Conservation as a guest. This gives you the freedom to explore the natural beauty of one of the world’s most biodiverse region’s while contributing to a conservation organization. I made friends with those who worked at Osa full time, in addition to the numerous visitors from around the world, including an Earth Watch group.
Regardless of where you are traveling, I encourage you to consider eco-friendly hotels, programs, and trips. There are numerous organizations that provide the same scenic experience while doing some good for the local environment and people!