Costs: transportation, accommodation while finding hosts, initial costs of joining the sites.
One way to help lower your travelling costs is to use HelpX, Workaway or WWOOF to nab free accommodation and food in exchange for a few hours’ work everyday. If you line up your hosts, you can actually hop from one farm to another, and the work varies incredibly from place to place. Use your skills on a dairy farm, fruit picking, caring for children, or looking after livestock.
1. Check hosts’ references and clarify expectations.
Nic and I started out at an almond farm about 3 hours out of Melbourne, and it was an interesting experience, for lack of better words. Actually, in better words: it sucked. Although accommodation was covered, our food wasn’t paid for, and our hosts wanted us to pay $15 (on top of gas) to drive to the local supermarket. We were staying (with 2 more people) in a rickety trailer in the back, so there really were no costs to them when it came to hosting us.
Earning money off your volunteers really isn’t in the spirit of HelpX, which is supposed to be a mutually beneficial agreement. So make sure you check hosts’ references and clarify before heading out how many hours’ work they expect from you, and what they’re offering up in return.
However, we did get to pet a koala (before wildlife rescuers came to pick the poor guy up), and there was a nearby river that was a fun bike ride away (not to mention relief from the 40-degree days).
2. Plan in advance.
We went about our HelpX volunteering a bit haphazardly. After arriving in Melbourne only to find it incredibly difficult to find a house, we decided to get some of our second year visa farmwork out of the way (to get your second year visa in Australia, you need to complete 88 days of farmwork in a rural area). This meant that a lot of the more desirable HelpX positions – working at a hostel in Tasmania, working at a parrot sanctuary in Queensland, etc. – had already been scooped up by more organized volunteers.
Luckily, we were able to find Peace Farms, located in the Yarra Valley, about 1.5 hours out of Melbourne. Peace Farms is run by 3 young families (all with children), and everyone there is helpful, supportive, and friendly. It was actually an entirely enjoyable experience, and Nic and I came out of it with a great respect for the people running it, their way of life, the area, and the 3 cute goats they kept. We learned to harvest potatoes, enjoyed fresh plums and salads plucked from the backyard, visited the Healesville sanctuary, and planted seedlings.