What is “work camping”? Like “boondocking” this is a term that has varying meanings to different folks, but we use it to mean any sort of work where a place to park the RV is part or all of the compensation.
When we visit Arizona, plenty of free dispersed camping is available on public lands, allowing us to find paying jobs rather than bartering labor for a site in an RV park as so many work campers seem to do. Some people enjoy campground work, and when the barter arrangement is fair it can be a real win-win for both the park owner and the work camper. However, with the growing popularity of Rving and work camping, Some RV parks and owners seem to be attempting to exploit workers. In a barter arrangement, the value of the campsite is the pay, and when dividing the pay by the number of hours required results in too low an effective hourly wage, we just are not interested. We are very happy to volunteer our time at state and national parks, but have no desire to help a private business avoid paying fair wages. If all work campers would do the same, then park owners would start offering better compensation, but too many workers are all to willing to “volunteer” at private RV parks.
While visiting Tucson I wanted a way to make some extra cash in order for Curly to take classes at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Art Institute. Craigslist gigs can be hit-or-miss, but I kept checking and eventually found a job building horse fence at Grasshopper Hill Farm in Patagonia. We contacted the owner to see if there were someplace we could park the camper on the farm, As it turned out, they were currently homeschooling their daughter and were more than happy to welcome another homeschooling family to camp out on their property. The pay was $13 an hour for the fence job, with no charge to camp there and a few meals thrown in. The kids were close enough to supervise throughout the day and happy to have a new friend and some farm critters to spend time with. The couple we were working for were laid-back, intelligent, and fun to talk with, and we bonded over a beer at the end of each workday.
They invited us to stay on for a week after the job was done and see some of Patagonia, and have invited us to come back again. One of the best parts of traveling is making new friends!