Educating adults about volunteering and organic food production on farm enterprises (EDVORG codename for this Erasmus Project) is the focus of this partnership project with national WWOOF organisations from ten European countries. It has developed and promotes a Learning Guide as an online open educational resource (OER) for adult learners about organic food production, entrepreneurship, volunteering and cultural exchange on farm enterprises. The adults, especially 18-34 year olds, can then relate this online learning to practical residential work experience and informal learning on a range of small enterprises in different European countries as well as worldwide.
In Europe only, there are over 20,000 adults or "WWOOFers" (mainly 18-34 year olds) registered with the ten partner organisations who all support "working worldwide on organic farms" or WWOOF. There are also over 2,000 farm enterprises registered with the partners who are willing to offer practical learning opportunities to these adult volunteers. The WWOOFers learn informally as residential volunteers on host farm enterprises each year. However there is currently no free online education that can be offered to them about volunteering and organic food production on farm enterprises.
The EU 2013 Indicators of Rural Development Report has shown that the agricultural sector in the EU is characterised by an ageing farming population, that rural areas have the lowest share of lifelong learning and lastly that learning by doing is the main form of training for the majority of EU farmers. So rural areas and farming in Europe needs to retain and attract young adults, build its lifelong learning and compliment the practical learning experience on farms with online learning. Linking this with the fact that the agricultural area under organic farming (5.5%) in the EU continues to increase is strong evidence of how vital online education about organic food production and cultural understanding is for young adults in rural areas.
To develop and promote a Learning Guide as an online open educational resource for adult learners about organic food production, entrepreneurship, volunteering and cultural exchange on farm enterprises, so they can relate this to practical residential work experience and informal learning on a range of small enterprises in different European countries.
Common Partners' principles of those participants launching this resource
All partners share a common set of principles: Adult volunteers working and learning worldwide on organic farms in non-monetary exchange for accommodation and meals. All partners have a strong interest in improving and developing their education service. The open education resource would complement their own developing services, as well as provide a common platform for them all to use. They are all active in the field of education e.g. the charitable objects of the UK partner is to advance the education of the public in the principles of the organic movement, and especially of organic farming and gardening.
The Learning Guide is freely available and usable online as an "open educational resource" for anyone who wants to learn about organic food production, sustainable lifestyles, rural entrepreneurship, cultural understanding and volunteering on farm enterprises. It will hopefully help any entrepreneur or cooperative to set up a new small farm/garden enterprise (singularly or cooperatively) based on organic food production, as well as enable people to learn how to volunteer, live and work on a farm enterprise in a responsible, sustainable, safe and healthy way.
The Learning Guide will be a significant part of the future educational service of the partner organisations as they extend their workshops, courses, and collaboration with farm enterprises and educational centres. The future will look bright in rural areas of Europe if young adults educated in sustainable farming and ways of living can bring their youthfulness, innovation, cultural sensitivity and entrepreneurship to ageing and disadvantaged rural farming communities.