Fruit Picking in Australia
Jane Wilson and Glynne Matthews discovered you don’t have to be a backpacker to get pick travel cash from trees on the harvest trail in Australia.
It was the end of the afternoon; we stood at the bus stop with our packs as the coach drove off, leaving us in small town, central Victoria. We had followed up on an offer for fruit picking work that we found posted on an YHA notice board the week before. Work to begin on Monday.
The harvest trail leads to some strange and interesting places with equally eccentric people along the way, and our welcoming committee, an old guy in a tiny Suzuki hatchback that still smelt like the goats he had in the front seat, was no different.
He drove us along the high street, showing us the landmarks on the way: Laundromat, supermarket, and pub. Pub! Our driver had, in fact, come directly from the bar. We wove gently down the road until it left town, onto the open road and into farming country.
We'd arrived too late for a camp spot with electricity, all taken, but didn't mind since we didn't plan to be up past sundown. Not when we had to be up at 6am and in the orchards by 7am each morning.
During the day more would be workers arrived and set up on-site in the remaining spots. From experienced fruit pickers to backpacking working-holiday couples: Aussie, European, and others and us. Both unexperienced novices – neither of us drinkers –but we might also end up at the pub at the end of the week.
WHAT TO TAKE
- Clothes: employers recommend long sleeve cotton shirts and long pants, boots or shoes with good grip suitable for climbing ladders, a sunhat/cap, cotton gloves to protect hands if the crop is thorny, and sun block.
- Tax file number
- Patience and stamina
- Good sense of humour
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING WHERE TO GO
- The nature of the crop - do you need to climb ladders/spend all day on your knees?
- Pay: generally either hourly ($10-20), or piecework (i.e. set rate per bin). $50-$100 per day is a reasonable expectation of earnings.
- Is it stripping work (fast) or by colour/size (slower) - are you paid accordingly?
- Hours per day. Days off.
- Do you have your own transport? How far is it to shops and pub if you have to walk?