If your version of Arcadia involves communing with nature and tending fruits and veggies but you lack a 20-acre spread in the country to call your own, you're in luck: Many organic farms around the world -- including three nearby -- offer the chance to volunteer on-site in exchange for free room and board (often for days or even weeks at a time).

Scott Hertzberg and his wife, Tanya, keep their nine-acre farm, Jug Bay Market Garden (10508 Croom Rd., Upper Marlboro, 301-627-6211), open to volunteers eight months a year (it's closed from December to March). The Hertzbergs specialize in organic flowers and berries; volunteers aid with planting, harvesting and weeding. "Volunteers help out a little," says Scott Hertzberg, "but the larger benefit for us is their youthful energy."

Also in Maryland is Next Step Produce (10615 Benton Rd., Newburg, 301-259-2096). Swiss transplant Heinz Thomet is eager to share his organic farming tips. His 80-acre Charles County farm, which is open year-round, boasts fig trees and fields of tomatoes and fresh ginger. Volunteers help with greenhouse seeding, harvesting produce and preparing for the Dupont Circle farmers' market.

Another spot worth considering: River Farm Kikos (13243 Lea Anna Lane, Dabneys, 804-749-4345), a 25-acre farm just outside of Richmond. "I always wanted to live on a farm," says owner John Williamson, who opened his to volunteers last year. Williamson not only grows organic garlic and sells flowers, he also raises goats and rabbits. Volunteers plant and help feed livestock; the property is closed to volunteers from December to March.

While such volunteer vacations aren't all fun and games, they nevertheless bring their own rewards. "You're going to work, you're going to sweat," says Thomet, but "you'll leave with a new appreciation of true food."

Kathleen Hom