Get involved

Chestnut Farm is primarily a place to live, learn and experiment with permaculture. 

It is not a commercial farm selling produce to mainstream outlets.  Long and short term helpers are a key part of the farm design & social system, although there are no paid positions on the property.  Arrangements are designed to allow learning & experience (and room & board!) in exchange for labour.  This is in the tradition of programs like WWOOFing and similar work/trade systems.  [I am no longer a formal WWOOF host, but have many helpers through schemes like Workaway and HelpX]

COVID-19 has impacted international travel and restricted the flow of backpackers to Australia. Now that international travel is returning, we expect the number of backpackers to slowly increase. If you are travelling to or are already in Australia, please contact us about any of the options below.

Long stay

We are currently offering two extended-stay opportunities for people who want to develop skills in specific areas.   We’re calling them interns, to reflect the greater level of commitment both parties are making to the arrangement.  These will ideally be 12 month positions; one focussing on food growing, foraging & processing, and another on building & infrastructure.  Interns will be unpaid but there will be no charge for internships (as there is at some ‘celebrity’ venues).  Interns will commence on basic tasks and gain skills & experience as the year progresses.  Training & guidance will be informal and collaborative.  Interns will play an active part in decision-making and the selection of projects over the year.  Interns will usually have completed a Permaculture Design Course and have shown previous interest and commitment in relevant areas; whether through training or practical experience.  A trial period of two weeks “WWOOFing” is essential prior to confirmation of a place.

If you think you might be right for one of these positions, please email

Short stay

Many travellers to Australia participate in WWOOFing, Workaway or HelpX schemes where they exchange labour for room & board.  It is a great way to connect to local communities and see the ‘real’ Australia.

NB: Due to a law change in 2016, unpaid work no longer counts toward your second year of a working holiday visa. You must find paid farm work in the right postcodes – check the government website for details.

Helpers make a great contribution on the farm and we are very grateful to them for their practical help, cultural exchange and the many friendships that have resulted from stays.  Because of the permaculture focus of the farm, many Chestnut Farm helpers are specifically interested in learning more about permaculture, however all are welcome to apply.

Full details are available on request, but here are some common questions answered:

  • Helpers usually work about 30 hours a week, over either 4 or 5 days.  Specific hours vary, depending on season and projects undertaken (e.g. early starts in summer to avoid heat of the day).
  • Initial stay 1 week, then as agreed with longer stays of several weeks preferred (a number of helpers have stayed several months)
  • There are limited opportunities during Winter, as both garden and construction tasks are weather-dependent & the Ballarat area can experience cold, wet weather for days on end during mid-Winter.
  • Steve often works with you for the first two days, to get a sense of your skills, knowledge, work ethic and standard of finish.  There are jobs for all levels of ability, so no need to be a trades-person  – although tradies are very welcome!  🙂
  • We all eat together; omnivore diet, often vegetarian.  Alcohol is BYO.  If you have a special diet, you may need to partially self-cater.  This needn’t be a barrier – email or call and let’s chat about how to make it workable for everyone.
  • Cooking & washing dishes are shared between all household members, because we are functioning as a shared house. As per Australian WWOOFing guidelines, helpers do not undertake general household duties as their main role, but you are responsible for keeping your room clean, putting laundry in the basket, taking turns cooking, doing dishes, etc. Such participation in the operation of the household does NOT form part of your weekly work hours.
  • Workers are responsible for looking after tools, wearing safety equipment, asking questions when not sure (there’s no such thing as a dumb question!) and showing initiative
  • Due to Steve’s work and family commitments, workers must be able to work some days without supervision or direction, so strong English language skills are essential.
  • Where possible, you will be given projects that you can complete during your stay, so you gain a sense of satisfaction & achievement from your time at the farm… at times, though, there will also be mundane but essential work that needs to be completed!
  • Pick up from Ballarat railway station is easy for those using public transport.  Train,  bus or shuttle (direct from Melbourne airport) all go to the station, which is 15 minutes from the farm.  [Book the Melbourne airport to Ballarat shuttle bus here]
  • Single bed accommodation is available for up to three WWOOFers at a time.  We have a tiny house which can take a couple or two singles.  If you have a camper van or tent, you are very welcome
  • No smoking on the property.  No use of illegal drugs.  No exceptions.  Please don’t ask.  🙂
chestnut farm clara firewood WWOOFer
Chestnut Farm potluck WWOOFer meal
Chestnut Farm Backgammon WWOOFers
chestnut farm WWOOFer firewood pile
chestnut farm apples ute WWOOFers