I think wwoofing is a great way to get to know local people. The ideal length of time to stay with a host, in my opinion, is two weeks. It takes one week to get to know the people and work you will be doing, and one week to enjoy it. By the third week I was sick of it. Farm work is hard, physically and monotonous at times, so certain muscles would get very sore, but by switching it up and doing different work on different farms I was able to let parts of my body recover. Pick macadamias is hard on your neck and back, while weeding garlic is hard on your knees, for example. For this reason, if you have any trade skills that you enjoy, such as carpentry, painting, networking, or web design, look for hosts who need this kind of work done. Not that there’s anything wrong with farming, just that if you will be wwoofing for a long time it is nice to mix in work you enjoy. Maybe you enjoy farm work.
Also, I would recommend taking a break between wwoof experiences, say a weekend every two weeks. While woofing you won’t generally get days off, and even if you do you’re likely to be stuck out in the bush unless you have your own vehicle. So take some time off to see the sights, get into the city, and interact with other people who are not your hosts. I don’t know about you, but being around the same four people for over a month without seeing much of anyone else makes me a little antsy. I’d recommend places that are within walking distance to some kind of public transportation to get into town in case you want to get away. Many wwoof hosts are very rural, which is great if you like country landscapes and woods, but part off wwoofing is getting to see the area, and unless your hosts are willing to drive you place, not that likely, or you have your own transportation it will be tough to get around. Many hosts will pick you up from the nearest train or bus station however, so getting to and from your host is usually not a problem.
Pay special attention to your housing, too, as this plays a significant role in your comfort, both physical and mental. Generally accommodation in the same house as your host is preferable. This makes you feel very welcome, gives you more opportunities to interact with the family, and the rooms are usually in good condition. While the privacy of self contained or caravan housing my sound nice, it’s never worth it. The hosts rarely inspect the facilities to make sure the roof doesn’t like, the holes in the walls are plugged to keep out animals, or the mold is cleaned away. Or they do check, but don’t care, since they’re not living there. There is also a sense of isolation when you live apart from the hosts, which negates the getting to know the locals benefit of wwoofing. I often found myself wondering when I was allowed to enter the house, and when I should leave after meals. This is particularly tricky at night since your caravan or mud hut won’t have it’s own bathroom and you need to use the one in the house.
While wwoofing can make traveling less expensive, it may not be as dramatic as you think. In Australia I wwoofed at a bunch of different places in Tasmania over three months and took three weeks off for sight seeing. In Japan I’ve done no wwoofing for two months and have my own place and cook my own meals, but I’ve spent the same amount of money in Japan as I did in Australia! The transportation between hosts can add up very quickly, and all that work makes you want to play hard when you have the time off. Just something to think about.
If your planning to wwoof in Tasmania, please feel free to drop me an email or comment and I would be happy to go into more detail about the different hosts I worked for. Another program worth looking into is the HelpX network. HelpX is very similar to wwoof, except that it is not necessarily organic, it is free, you can read reviews of hosts (a big plus), and is limited to the English speaking world, while you can wwoof in almost any country.