What to Expect
The organic garden and greenhouse at Patagonia Park is a small but innovative garden in the heart of the Chacabuco Valley. Volunteers will assist the head gardener in everyday tasks such as watering plants, digging beds, turning compost, planting, weeding, and more. While much of the work may feel monotonous, volunteers have the opportunity to learn about organic farming in an extreme climate. The garden hosts over 25 species of fruits and vegetables, so there is much to learn.
We hope participants will enjoy themselves, make new friends, and learn about Patagonia Park and our farming initiatives, however the program’s primary purpose is to get help with the massive project of building this park. We ask volunteers to understand the realities of this—which means being flexible, open minded, adventurous, and willing to work hard. We continually strive to improve our program based on volunteer feedback. If you join us, we want you to have an enjoyable and productive experience, and to understand ahead of time what you are committing to.
• The volunteer program 22-day sessions and 42-day sessions, September through April. Volunteers will work Monday to Friday, with free days on Saturday and Sunday.
• Francisco Vio is the head gardener and will instruct all garden volunteers. Questions about the program or the work can be directed to Francisco.
• We can give you travel tips and suggestions, but you are responsible for planning and paying for your travel to and from the park.
• By deciding to join us, we expect that volunteers have read and agreed to the expectations of the program. While you are with us, we need you to respect our policies and CP staff leadership. Those who do not do so will be asked to leave the program.
• Respect the park’s wildlife, ecology, infrastructure and other visitors: practice minimal impact camping, respect facilities, maintain tidiness and order, keep noise to a minimum.
• Respect CP team members: follow directions of CP staff members, engage with park staff positively, recognize the challenges of living and working here, and accept delays and changes of plan.
• Respect your fellow volunteers: learn their language, accept and embrace their differences, help out and do more than your share and have fun.
• Do not buy or consume alcohol or illegal drugs during your time here, with the exception of alcohol served by CP staff on special occasions.
• Maintain a positive, enthusiastic, understanding attitude, and understand that the volunteer program is one of many components of creating this new flagship park.
• Arrive on the first day of the program, and leave on the last—we cannot accommodate other dates.
• Be over 18 years old to join the program, for liability reasons.
• The volunteer program aims to accept an equal number of Chileans and foreigners. One of the goals of the program is to share experiences and make connections across languages and cultures.
• While we do not expect participants to be totally bilingual, conversational Spanish/ English is a prerequisite. The program is NOT a place to learn Spanish/ English, but it is a place to practice and gain fluency. You must be comfortable in both languages, and willing to speak.
• We hope that volunteers will strive to speak Spanish whenever possible, especially at the park headquarters. All CP staff members are Chilean; only some speak English, and all will appreciate volunteers who engage with them and practice their Spanish. English conversations at dinner, etc, can be exclusive.
• We expect that volunteers join us to work hard and make a contribution. If your primary goal is traveling and exploring Patagonia, this program might not be for you.
• Work is hard physical labor outdoors and can be repetitive/ mundane. Work in the garden often involves being on your knees or bent over for hours at a time. You should expect to work 8 hours a day. Volunteers should be in GOOD physical shape and health to participate in the program!
• Work plans shift according to park needs. We ask you to be flexible as plans often change last minute.
• Garden work needs to get done rain or shine. Be prepared for long days, even in bad weather.
• You will stay in your tent for your whole time here. Be prepared for cold nights and high winds: bring a warm sleeping bag, good sleeping pad, and a sturdy tent.
• All garden volunteers will stay at the West Winds Campground for the entire program. On their days off, the other volunteers will also stay at West Winds. This campground is open to the public, so you will be sharing it with other park visitors.
• All garden volunteers will eat dinner at the park restaurant along with local workers. The food is hardy and typical to Patagonia: lots of stews and soups, lamb, potatoes and bread. We try to provide fresh salad, but sometimes that is not a possibility.
• If you’re a vegetarian: please know that Patagonia is not an easy place to eat meat-free, as meat is a major part of the diet. We have accommodated many vegetarians in the past, but please be aware that due to the remote location, vegetables and non-meat protein options are not always available.
• If you’d like to bring some snacks of your own, we encourage you to do so. We have only instant coffee, so bring ground coffee if that is important to you. For others, it will be a supply of chocolate, nuts, or energy bars. One note, though: Customs will confiscate fruits and seeds when you enter Chile, so check the rules before you travel if coming from abroad.
• Access to medical facilities in this region is difficult. The closest facility is very basic. If you have significant medical issues, the program may not be for you. Please let us know about any health concerns in advance.
• At the park headquarters, there is limited internet access. There are some areas with wireless, and there is one (old) computer available for volunteer use. However, our satellite internet service can be spotty and frustratingly slow, and all of the volunteers are typically vying for time. If connectivity is important to you, consider this when making your decision to volunteer.
Learning and Education
• One of the goals of the volunteer program is to give hands-on experience to interested gardeners. We aim for all volunteers to leave the future park more aware of the components and challenges of organic farming. Throughout your time in the garden we will review different aspects of organic gardening as well as theory. We recommend doing some research before arriving, as you will get more out of the program.
Cost of the Program
• Running the volunteer program comes with numerous expenses for us: food, salaries for the leader and coordinator, equipment, insurance, transportation, showers/ bathrooms, and more.
• To help offset some of these costs, the program cost is US $30 per day. Please know that this charge covers less than half of the full cost of the program.
• We will ask you to pay half of the program cost when you accept your spot in the program, and the rest during your first days in the park. We cannot refund you if you decide to leave early.
Still up for it? You’ll be rewarded with the satisfaction of contributing to the creation of this flagship national park, beautiful surroundings, new friends from around the world, and a deeper understanding of Patagonia.