In the summer of 2007 I met Chris Barden of Worldwide Farmers Exchange (WFE), a program operating out of Berkeley California. We were attending an event at Santa Clara University. Over lunch together, I learned that Chris was interested in finding women farmers to participate in their exchange program. I was interested in WFE as many of the farmers I have met via my site want very much to gain new skills sets to assist them in their countries of origin. I’m sharing information about the Worldwide Farmers Exchange as one possible option for those of you interested in learning new agricultural work that could benefit you and your country as well as to encourage those readers who have farms to consider being a host to a young farmer from another country.
Worldwide Farmers Exchange was created to provide training opportunities for young men and women working in agriculture. The program is designed to help participants learn new agricultural techniques, experience life in a foreign country and strengthen their foreign language skills, and to return home with a new level of expertise that will assist their work and that of others in their country of origin.
The WFE sponsors young people from other nations who travel to the US as well as sends young people from the US to foreign nations. The vast majority of participants, however, are individuals coming to the United States. In 2009 farmers from 38 different countries took part in the exchange program, including Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, China, England, France, Ghana, Moldova, the Philippines, South Africa, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
WFE participants usually come for 12 months and apprentice alongside successful American host farmers. All Exchange farmers receive a monthly stipend, medical insurance, and free housing.
Placements are very diverse. WFE offers young people training in agricultural fields as varied as orchid growing, green house development, coffee production, and swine farrowing. Hog farming is particularly popular and usually includes training in highly specialized breeding programs as well as organically raised, free-range swine production.
Greenhouse (also called shade house) training includes flowers, herbs and fresh vegetables. There are also programs focusing on outdoor vegetable production, from small tropical vegetable farms in Hawaii to huge industrialized potato operations in the Midwestern United States. WFE offers custom harvesting opportunities and grain production placements. In the past many candidates were placed on dairy farms but in recent months those numbers have been reduced due to the downturn in the dairy industry.
The Worldwide Farmers Exchange is currently looking for host farms to participate in this program. If you or anyone you know would be interested in sponsoring a young farmer from another country for a year, this is an excellent opportunity for a cross-cultural exchange. The participants are eager to learn new skills, especially in sustainable farming and animal husbandry. They are very hard workers and will be an asset to the host families. While the host family does pay a stipend, medical insurance and free housing for the year, in exchange they can provide the gift of assisting not only their apprentice but usually an entire community. The WFE welcomes any possible hosts in tropical regions as there is a big demand for training opportunities for young people in Africa, Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea.
You can learn more about Worldwide Farmers Exchange by going to their site. If you have questions or would like to participate in a program where you will definitely get more back than you give, please contact Chris Barden at firstname.lastname@example.org.