At last, the long overdue final instalment of my gruelling Aussie farmwork tales. We left off with me getting a glorious (not even being sarcastic) job at a potato farm sorting potatoes. I was there for 6 weeks and loved it.
During my time at this farm my partner and I decided to move hostels. This was one of the best decisions I made in Bundaberg and I regret not moving sooner. The other travellers and hostel owner were really nice and helpful plus my partner and I got our own room. Wahoo!
Sadly the potato harvest came to an end and my new hostel assigned me to a sweet potato farm. I was excited to start my first day but knackered when I got back. As with my old farm, I was on a smaller machine on the back of a tractor. All the potatoes come up on a conveyor belt (and the occasional snake apparently) and we would have to quickly pick them up and place them on a separate belt higher up. You have to be lightning fast at moving your arms up and down. Tricky as some of the spuds weigh quite a lot (the biggest weighed almost 15kg!!!!). Imagine doing a workout lifting heavy weights as fast as you can continuously for 5 minutes. If you’re’ slow you hold everyone up quite simply, will get fired.
Fortunately the lines rotate so after a few minutes lifting you’ll be walking behind the tractors making sure no good potatoes were missed. There were loads of cute mice (which the farmers liked to kill) and awesome birds of prey (who also enjoyed killing mice). Occasionally I would do some vining which involved simply walking along rows of plants and picking out all the vines. Easy, yes but not when its 30+ degrees C.
If I did this job every day I think I’ either die of exhaustion or become immensely strong but luckily this job rotates from picking in the field one day to packing in the shed the next so the next day we were packing for 10 hours sorting all the potatoes we had picked yesterday into various sizes and different boxes. This is surprisingly confusing and takes a while to get the hang of.
I did this job for only a week but that was long enough for me. Then it was onto another sweet potato farm.
We got dropped off in a field in the middle of nowhere just as the sun was beginning to rise. It was very beautiful. Nobody was around so myself and 4 others from the hostel started walking. We walked for about 20 minutes to a little shed and still there was no sign of anyone else. After several attempted phone calls with little signal we discovered we had been dropped off at the wrong place. When we walked back to where we were dropped off, a little angry man got out of a car, told us (shouted at us) to take off our muddy boots and to get in. That was fun. 6 people in a 5 seater car…
We had to keep our shoes off and hand-pick white sweet potatoes. The mud was lovely, soft and warm. After a little bit of picking we then had to go pack.. Occasionally the farmer would shout at me but I’d heard he shouts at everyone so I just smiled and carried on. At one point he told us he would ‘cut off our legs’ and told another guy he would punch him if we trod on the potato vines. Ha!
Despite working for “little Hitler” as I called him, I weirdly liked working at this farm. His anger amused me and I just got on with it.
I was then put on my final farm. A lemon farm. It was huge with at least 100 travellers working there at any one time. I was kitted up with a little bumbag thingy, special pliers and a hoop to make sure the lemons weren’t too small. We got paid $160 (£75ish) per huge bin and worked in pairs. Luckily I was with a friend from the hostel and neither of us cared that much as we knew we would only be there for 3 days. Annoyingly we arrived an hour early 2 out of 3 days so all napped in the shade then in the evening we waited 2 hours to be picked up. Nevermind.
Even putting in minimal effort we still managed to fill 1 1/3 bins with lovely fresh green lemons by the end of our time there. The thing they don’t tell you about lemon trees is that they are covered with thorns. No matter what you do, your arms will get scratched up but you do get used to it.
|Picking lemons on a dodgy ladder
|Filling up our bin
Overall it was an extremely difficult 4 months both emotionally and physically. After that 12 hour day picking courgettes I swore to myself I’d never complain about a job ever again. Whilst very hard, it was a very different experience and has given me some memories I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
Hopefully when I apply for my 2nd year visa it will all go smoothly as working for multiple farms never looks good but at the end of the day, if they reject me despite doing nearly 100 days at least I had the opportunity.
Just remember: If you plan on completing 88 days regional work to obtain your 2nd year visa, try and do it as soon as possible. I left it to the last minute and struggled. Many places only sign you off for 88 worked days so any days off are not included so it’s very easy for the theoretical 3 months to turn into 6 months like other backpackers I met.
Yes it will be hard and you will want to give up but I promise you, you’ll make unforgettable memories that will be worth it in the long haul.
Read the whole series: