Having completed my 88 days of regional work in South Australia I thought I would share what I learnt with you…
1. Research the fruit
When the harvest is and for how long – the season ending before you finish your 88 days will only incur extra costs and time. If you are planning ahead it would be good to find out which part of the season is the best.
2. Research the picking
We have been picking oranges so this involved ladders and stretching. Although the trees were a lot taller than I imagined I was glad it wasn’t bending over my back would not have survived 88 days of that.
3. Choose who you go with carefully
You are living, working and relaxing with this person, that’s 24 hours 7 days a week for 13 weeks. It is going to test your friendship. Still having said that I would still recommend going with someone doing this own your own would be insanely tough. I went with my boyfriend and you can read his take on our time fruit picking here.
4. Working Hostel or Farm Stay
We chose a working hostel or more to the point the MRQ boat hostel. It’s had huge ups and downs along the way as it has only been going 6 months, but the social side has made this whole fruit picking part bearable. Just be aware a working hostel won’t be the cheapest option for saving money.
5. Build up a good relationship with your boss
Our boss was a crazy (in a good way), 60 something Cambodian lady who on day 2 man handled me on to her tractor and drove us across dirt tracks whilst being perched only on the edge. Still we worked hard and she began to like us so much so she learnt my name before anyone else and when the farmers went on strike she got us extra hourly paid work.
6. Hourly Rate or By the bin
We went wrong on this one and ended up doing by the bin. Over the 10 days where we did have an hourly paid job we nearly earnt as much as the rest of the time picking. When you earn $25 a bin and a bin takes two people over an hour to pick the hourly rate is shocking.
7. Don’t go in summer
Not really thinking about the time of year or the temperature of an Australian summer having never experienced one before this was an error on our part which resulted in picking oranges in 40 degree heat most days.
8. Check from the start they are valid to sign you off
Even up until the day we left we were having scares from Chinese whispers that we wouldn’t get signed off or that if we were investigated it wouldn’t stand up to immigration. Its good to know beforehand if they sign 7 days a week or how many you work. No one knew where they stood on our farm as some got everyday others got just the days they had worked – which in many peoples case that wasn’t a huge amount.
9. What to wear and take to the field
Our first day I was convinced they must have a tap and a porta loo but no. You need to take enough water and food to last all day. And if you need to relieve yourself its behind the orange trees. Before we arrived we were told to wear long sleeves – I thought that was silly, I wanted a tan! But the orange trees have thorns and your skin will get cut to pieces otherwise. Problem is in 40 degree heat I found it too hot for long sleeves needless to say my arms are covered in cuts. Make sure you wear gloves at all times. I also found boots helpful.
10. If you are booking with a company make sure you research them.
We found the job on Gumtree but it was with a company called Harvest Hoppers. They have several staff whose job it is to recruit people to their working hostels. During the time on the phone with one of these members of staff we were promised something completely different than we got – the biggest problem of this was she promised we would earn money easily the reality was not. There were also several times during our time in the hostel where they sent too many people on board and they didn’t have enough jobs for any of them. They seem to have good ideas for the company but I would warn you to be careful.