This is my experience with picking fruit in Tasmania Australia.
This is by no means the final word on fruit picking work, merely my thoughts.
Looking for fruit picking information online is easy. Basically, you go to the Australian Governments harvest trail website and they let you download a timetable of when the high and low seasons are for each state throughout the year. The unfortunate part is that this is the same basic information that every other website offers, and will do very little to actually getting you a fruit picking job. So here we go.
To find a job picking fruit one needs a Field of Dreams attitude, if you show up when the time is right, you will find work. You have to believe. These are not jobs you will find online, rather in person. To actually land the job on a farm, here are 3 sure fire ways.
1. Go to the city, town or village where the farming is going on. Read the local paper for job openings. Ask at the cities information desk about fruit picking jobs. Or drive to each farm or call over the phone and ask if they are looking for help.
2. Contact a company who does the staffing for farm work. In larger farming areas you can find them advertising in local newspapers. You can also find them by asking around at the hostel you are staying at.
3. Finally, you can get with a hostel that actually does the placement for you. This is what I did and it worked, sort of. While ther eare many hostels that will do the placement for you, the location I chose was in Cradoc, Tasmania at a place called Balfes Hill.
It was a quiet part of the country being an hours walk from the nearest farming village of Cygnet. The owner has a revolving door of backpackers who she sets up with the farmers who need workers. For this, she charges the backpackers a one time fee of $30 AUD. While never guaranteeing work, you can be pretty certain to be kept busy with some kind of farming work. Cherrires and apples are the big money earners round these parts.
Planning your arrival is important, as you don't want to get there after the positions have been filled. I got there in Mid-February between the cherry season and apple season, all the work they had for me was picking strawberries. In other words, not a high money earner.
Let me tell you something about strawberries: picking them sucks. The pay is very low for the amount of work you do. Each crate pays the picker $4.50 AUD. Even the fastest are only picking maximum 3 crates per hour and that is back breaking work. After a week of practice I was picking 2 per hour. That's $9 per hour... Hardly enough to live on when you rarely get more than 4 hours of picking per day.
Picking strawberries is great for those who are looking to extend their WHV. The season for Strawberries is long, about 6 months, and with most afternoons off you have a lot of free time for drinking. A passtime most backpackers from the commonwealth hold dear. Hence you'll find the majority of people picking were from England, Canada and Europe.
The one saving grace from all this mess is the view. Every morning you wake up at 5:00am to get in the picker van and head off to the farm. Then, each morning you see the sunrise over the strawberry fields. It's pretty cool... the first 3 times.
You can take either of two methods to pick those strawberries. Bend over and have a sore lower back, or kneel next to the row and have tired knees. Your choice. Go for anything that is 90% red. If you have a hard time understanding that, the farmer will kindly remind you.
I once was so bored that I counted each strawberry going into my crate, totalling about 400 strawberries per crate. With each crate paying me a whopping $4.50, that puts the price I am earning on each berry at about $0.01 each. Give or take a half of a cent, respectively.
So, I ask you this question: When walking down the street, do you bend over to pick up a penny off the pavement? I don't, but for some reason, when presented with thousands of pennies so many backpackers are willing to do this. They just have to pick them up one at a time.
Every once in awhile you get that perfect strawberry. That one that should be worth more than just a penny, You pick him up and think to yourself, "Wow, you are going to make someone very happy one day.". It is a short lived moment of pride, before putting him into the crate only to get lost with 300 of his friends. Perhaps a tear even falls from your eye.
Somewhere over the rainbow there's another rainbow. This is not just a rainbow you have before you, but a sign that it is about to rain on my strawberry picking parade. That means we finish early, because we can't pick in the rain. So go back to your hostel and waste away another day trying to spend as little money as possible because after 5 crates you barely paid for one days rent at your accommodation.
Picking strawberries is really only worthwhile if you want agriculture work days to extend your visa. It is a lot of work for very little money. Enjoy!
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