The idea of WWOOFing is brilliant and seems like it should be such an easy barter situation. The majority of farms I have been on have had an abundance of food and could always use an extra hand in the field.
Most places I WWOOFED provided food and housing. Thus the pay which the farmer has to provide is extremely minimal in value. Food that is grown on site and does not have to be transported or preserved has practically no cost. The housing situation should also be relatively inexpensive.
For WWOOFers who don't have land, better than organic food is priceless. Thus it is easy for a WWOOFer to volunteer time and energy when they are receiving food in return that is Not available for purchase at the typical store.
I considered myself a volunteer and I was excited to be a guest on theses people's farms and to help them out with whatever they needed. However, every farm I arrived at eyeballed me as if I was just another "homeless hippy" willing to slave my life away. Every farm I went to I stayed longer than I should have mainly because I am a city person and I wanted to learn as much as I could while at the farm. I usually stayed about 2 weeks and then I moved on.
In my opinion farmers should share more and look at WWOOFers like a companion not a slave. If you want a slave share your profits. One of the worst farms I worked on was SpringRain Farm. Whenever I would mention a permaculture technique the owner would laught it off and say he didn't believe in "Bio- dynamic magic". We had more than 6 volunteers and everyone was working 40 hour weeks. He would have girls carry 7 gAllon water containers for hundreds of yards. Girls were also given the task of hammering in T-posts with a 40+ pounder. It wasn't only the physicality of the task that irked me, but also the non-chalant nature in which I was asked to perform the task. To paint a better picture of the situation the farmer who assigned the task is 6'2 260lbs. I am 5'5 110. I can definitely do my share of work on the farm, but t posts are not my specialty.
I WWOOFed on 3 farms in the PNW from 2010-2012 and interned on one in British Columbia.I had eerily similar experiences at all of them.
I worked in the emerald triangle from 2012-2014. I got treated fairly, fed the best organic food, and learned some of the best compost tea and soil building recipes. I also got paid enough to start my own farm. I just want to let young farmers know the Emerald Triangle is an amazing place to be these days.
If you are interested simply show up to Wildberries in Arcata, October 1, and you will see what I am talking about. Or We got a great spot for a hardworking couple on my Farm in Wolf Creek, Oregon. We can provide some of the best organic food plus a great stipend and an epic camp spot.
Hippies are not the modern day migrant workers. Treat WWOOFERS with respect. if you don't have plenty to share mutual respect is usually good enough.