Fruit picking is a common source of work for travelers in Australia as a way of making money outside of the regular backpacker jobs in the city such as bar tending, waiting tables, construction, and organic farm work.
As it is also one of the easiest jobs to get, most working holidaymakers in Australia will end up doing fruit picking work sooner or later. I have picked fruit in different parts of Australia, from the hot south to the even hotter north. I landed my first job in the little town of Berri in South Australia, a three hour bus ride from Adelaide. It is located in a farming region well known for grapes, citrus fruits and stone fruits. I headed down there without a job or a lead. I was hoping there would be plenty of fruit pickers needed since it was the beginning of December and oranges, apricots and nectarines were coming into season.
A good source of information was the Harvest Trail website (https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvesttrail) run by the Australian government. It lists job openings and tells you which fruits are in season, when and where. Upon arrival, I checked into the only youth hostel in the small town. It was geared completely towards working travelers: everyone staying there was working in the fields surrounding the town.
Simply put, the farmers knew who to call if they needed someone. Since people were coming and going all the time, I got a job the day I arrived.
The next day I started my fruit picking work together with six other people of different nationalities: French, Danish, English, Korean and German. Place of business was a medium-sized farm growing nectarines and apricots, a half hour drive out of town. We got up at 5 am, picking started at 6. As far as the eye could see nectarine trees spread out before us. We went straight to work picking nectarines in the dewy orchard.
It was important to make an early start because things started to heat up quickly. By the time it was 9 o’clock the temperature had already gone over 30 degrees Celsius and sweat was pouring down our necks. Protecting ourselves from hazardous UV-rays became a prime concern: a hat, sunglasses, a long-sleeved shirt, a jumbo-sized bottle of water and small rivers of factor 30 sunscreen all proved indispensable. Since the farmer only wanted us to pick the best fruits we were paid hourly instead of per bin, which is more usual.
Fruit Picking Money
We earned $15 per hour, not bad for a fruit picking job. Usually around 2 pm it became too hot to work and we went back to the hostel, where we would hang around the pool, drink beer and play the didgeridoo, have a game of football or play volleyball. The hostel was a great place to relax and forget about work and Saturday nights became legendary.
After three months of hard work, cheap living, late nights and early rises, I had saved up enough money to continue traveling and with a sense of regret I left Berri. I had worked a strenuous, boring job for months but at the same time had made many friends from all over the world and had a lot of fun.
Later that year I did fruit picking work in Queensland, farther north, in an equally small town a few hours east of Brisbane. This time the mission was apples, on a huge farm with about 35 of us working there. It was a lot harder to earn money since the pay was per bin.
We got $25 per bin and at first, it took me more than two and a half hours to fill up one. My neck and back were hurting from the heavy picking bag and it was difficult to be fast, because the trees were big and no apples could be left hanging. At this rate, I figured it would be extremely hard to make any money.
After two weeks, the initial fatigue wore off and I started to fill more bins. Still, after paying the hostel each week I felt I should have earned more for that amount of work. I didn’t like the accommodation either. There was no community amongst the backpackers, and the owner was a tyrant. Disappointed after my previous experience, I decided to move on as soon as I could afford to. Since then I had other picking jobs in different places in Australia.
Sometimes fruit picking was easy and you could earn lots of money quickly, at other times it was the exact opposite. The friendship of fellow workers always proved to be very important, as you are living in a rural town where nothing ever happens except for the occasional rodeo. Picking fruit is not a cushy job, but it is a good way of saving up money (as there is nothing to spend it on except food and drinks) and seeing a side of the country you would never see as a tourist.
You do get to eat a lot of fresh fruit!
Meet the Author:
As a therapy for shyness, Steven left his native Belgium and traveled in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. As a therapy for his travel addiction, he is now trying to work and study in Brussels.