If you are looking to make some money while your work and travel around Australia then you might want to consider picking fruit and vegetables.
There is extensive fruit and vegetable picking work available in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates about 140,000 people are employed in this industry every year. In fact, many people travel the country working the ‘harvest trail’ which sees them in employment all year round. This is because they know when and where the harvests are and move from one harvest to the next. You too, can join at any given time to make some money while experiencing places in Australia you may not otherwise see.
So people of all walks of life pick fruit and vegetables. This is good news because it doesn’t matter what age you are or your nationality as long as you can legally work there is work out there.
Extend your Australian Working Holiday Visa
If you are in Australia on the 417 Working Holiday Visa and are looking for a way to stay longer, then consider picking fruit and vegetables in Australia. If you have completed 88 days of ‘specified work’ in your first year of your working holiday and can provide payslips to prove this then you can apply for a second working holiday visa to stay another year.
Where is the fruit and vegetable work in Australia
There is literally fruit and vegetable picking work all over Australia and all year round. The harvests are seasonal so you can move around the country picking fruit and vegetables while travelling. Following are maps showing you where the harvests are so you can plan your fruit and vegetable picking trip.
What to expect
You do not need to have a qualification or previous experience to undertake fruit and vegetable picking work. For the uninitiated though fruit and vegetable picking can be a shock to the system. It is very hard work and some people hate it. This is why you should have an idea of what to expect.
To ground pick or tree pick
Most harvest jobs require a reasonable level of individual physical fitness and involve regular lifting, which can be repetitious and tiring. Work can involve working from ladders or mechanical hoists, standing, kneeling or sitting while moving through the crop.
If you have never done this type of work before you might like to consider what type of crop you would prefer to pick. For instance, would you prefer climbing a ladder in fruit tree orchards to pick apples, lemons, mangoes, oranges, peaches, etc? Or bending over picking ground crops like beans, cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, potatoes, strawberries, zucchinis, etc? If you do not like heights or are unsteady on ladders, you may wish to choose ground crops. However, if you have a bad back, you may not like bending over all the time. If either of these options still don’t appeal, then you may find work in the packing sheds grading and packing the fruit and vegetables to send off to market.
The actual picking
Farms can request you pick their produce by either strip or selection picking.
Strip picking involves ‘stripping’ the plant/tree of its entire crop while selection picking will see you making the decision as to whether the fruit or vegetable should be picked. Your decision will be based on things such as colour (ripeness) and size. The second option will take place over a few weeks where you will visit the same plants/trees everyday to continue selection picking until all the fruit and/or vegetables are picked.
A tip for tree picking
If tree picking, pick the top of the tree first while you bag is light. Then you can work you way down otherwise, if you fill your picking bag while at the top of the tree, you may have difficulties getting down the ladder.
Many of us hate early morning starts but with fruit and vegetable picking they are a necessity. You will find that if the day is going to be a scorcher you are better off starting early in the morning anyway.
Employment conditions and payment
Before you begin work you should find out from the grower the hours you are required to work, including the starting and finishing time each day and any house rules. If you decide you don’t like the work after a few days, can you leave and be paid when you leave? Some growers only pay fortnightly and require a fortnight’s notice to quit. Most importantly, find out how much you will be paid so you and the grower know where you both stand.
Payment is calculated either by an hourly rate of A$10-14 per hour which depends on the crop, or by the bin load (piece work). The more you pick, the more you earn. Your grower will advise you.
Transport and accommodation
Your own transport is often required to get you to the harvesting areas although some farms are accessible by public transport, or a lift can be arranged. In many areas, Particularly in Queensland there are ‘working hostels’. They not only provide hostel accommodation but also operate a bus service to get you to the crop on time. Some work hostels have made it difficult for pickers who find they don’t like doing picking work and want to get out of town as quickly as possible. This is because they will take the passports of working holiday makers or the driver’s licence of Australian residents and place them in a locked draw until your ‘commitment’ with the employer and accommodation has finished. I personally wouldn’t want to be doing this.
Accommodation isn’t always provided, although some orchards have simple huts and an area to set up a camp. Some of the larger orchards, especially in northern Victoria provide meals for a nominal fee or have kitchens available for use. If no accommodation is available, backpacker hostels and caravan parks are usually located in the area. Check all this out before you commit yourself to any position. If you are looking to stay in a hostel check out HostelWorld.
Most farms are a long way from any stores so it is important you have the right picking gear with you. Otherwise your picking experience may not be as enjoyable as it could be.
As the work is outdoors you will encounter various elements, some of them harsh. You should always have a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face and neck. A cap is more practical for working in trees. Most farmers are fully aware of the effects the sun can have on their pickers, which is why some will not allow you to start work without one. After all, a picker with sunstroke is no use to them. Wear sunscreen. Even in winter the Australian sun can cause sunburn quickly to those not used to spending long periods outdoors. Or preferably cover up with long sleeves and pants – the lighter and older your clothes are the better. This is because fruit and vegetable picking in Australia can be dirty work. In particular, picking bananas can be sticky work if you get the tree sap on yourself.
Ensure you have a water bottle with you, as not all growers will supply you with a cold drink and you don’t want to dehydrate in the harsh climates. It is preferable to have an insulated water bottle to keep your water cool. There is nothing worse on a hot day than drinking hot water from your water bottle. If you will be outdoors for long periods of time (which is highly likely), you. May wish to invest in two water bottles. A small insulated one, which will be portable as you work your way through the crop, and a larger four-lite insulated bottle which you can keep close by. This will then enable you to fill your portable water bottle when needed.
Depending on your accommodation and if you have a fridge available to you, you may wish to invest in an esky to store your drink and food.
Take insect repellent to keep away flies, mozzies and other insects that hang around fruit and vegetables. These insect do not discriminate at all when they decide to annoy you. You wouldn’t want to over balance and fall off your latter while shooing flies away!
For cold weather conditions it is advisable to take thermal underwear as jumpers and coats can be cumbersome. A pair of fingerless gloves might also be useful. A raincoat or water proof jacket will be handy in wet weather particularly in the tropical areas in the northern states, although work usually stops when it rains.
You should have your own pair of sturdy gloves – there are special ones with dimpled palms for crates picking – and good sturdy shoes, preferably boots. Your footwear should have been worn in as new footwear could cause discomfort and distract you from your work which can affect how much money you could make! Spats or gaiters are useful to have. They are basically materials (nylon or cotton) which fit over your ankle and reach up to or over your calf. They will protect you from prickles and snakes they may be living in the undergrowth. If climbing ladders, it is preferable to have shoes with good grip.
Check if you need to bring any equipment such as a small knife with a curved edge for grape picking, a pair of secateurs or your own buckets. Hopefully the grower will provide these.
Your own first aid kit may also come in handy.
Most work can be found through the local Employment National service, hostels in the various areas or you may want to contact the growers directly. It is wise to ring before you arrive as the ripening time for crops can vary from those shown on the maps, due to erratic rainfall, unseasonal cold weather, drought, etc. You don’t want to turn up and find that you have a couple of weeks to wait before you begin work.
There are a number of options for finding work. Many people who have done this work before usually contact growers direct as growers are often pleased to have them return. Otherwise try the following:
How to find a fruit and vegetable picking job in Australia
Your first port of call could be the Harvest Hotline 1800 062 332 or visit the harvest website at www.jobsearch.gov.au/harvesttrail
As already mentioned there are a number of backpacker hostels that link you to harvest jobs. Check out the hostels in the harvest areas when you search www.nomadsworld.com.
Fruit and vegetable picking in Australia is one way to earn money while you travel the country. It is very hard work but can be rewarding.