A non-horror story about Farm Work – Australia.

Facebook group after Facebook group you see articles and stories being shared about awful backpacker experiences in order to gain 88 days farm work. So I thought that I should level it out and share my experience as well.

At the moment of writing, I have about 30 days left to grab for my 2nd year visa. We have worked every day for the past month, and see no signs of slowing down. We work on a potato farm just a 15 minute drive outside of Ballarat, Victoria. It is winter time here, and we are the rare backpackers who have stayed south instead of heading for the glorious Queensland. We were planning on heading up North in our camper van, but once we had finished the Great Ocean Road and The Grampians we realised that there is a lot of distance to be covered and petrol to buy. So we thought a cheaper option would be to try and find some work closer to home.

We began by ringing the National Harvest Information Service every day. After days of failed calls, a position became available for a couple in Swan Hill – we were asked to ring back at 1pm. Optimistic us thought we would be able to go look at this amazing waterfall and ring back in time, however we kept losing signal on our travels and only managed to ring back at 1.15pm. Unfortunately by this time the position had already been filled, so I would advise being totally devoted to avoid disappointment. We learnt our lesson and from that moment on and made sure we focused on the task at hand. Another thing, do check that your phone isn’t on NO CALLER ID as we found Jack’s was and presumed that’s why nobody was calling him back.

We drove from The Grampians, up to the Mildura MADEC office. (http://www.madec.edu.au/harvest-labour-services/These are the Harvest Labour Offices where you can go and register your details with them and they will contact you if any work becomes available in the area. Feeling disheartened in Mildura, we stopped for some delicious ice-cream to cool our frustrations and temperature. Then I got a phone call from a farmer named Sam, I had left a message replying to an ad from him on the Harvest Trail website. Unfortunately he already had a couple coming that week and only needed one other person. Still being enthusiastic and polite I told him not to worry and to ring us back if anything changed.

And it did! By this time we had gone to the Renmark MADEC office, and ventured all the way to Adelaide. We got a call saying that the couple who turned up didn’t realise that there wasn’t any accomodation on-site, so the job was ours if we wanted it. We did have an induction day/ dexterity test in Adelaide the next day, for a tomato picking job, but we decided to take Sam up on his offer and head to Ballarat!

We met Sam (the nicest guy ever!) at his farm a couple of days later to introduce ourselves, find out what we were in store for and we started the next day! I have only ever worked in hospitality/customer service, my most recent job being in a bridal store. So separating spuds from mud is far from my comfort zone. After our second day I was on the phone to my parents crying saying it just ‘wasn’t for me’. There isn’t much chance to talk to one another on the harvester due to the fact you need to concentrate so much: therefore I only had my own thoughts for company. My thoughts on the 2nd day : “What on earth am I doing here?”, “do I really want my 2nd year visa this bad?”. Not very motivational!

What I should have been thinking : “This is the least stressful job I’ll probably ever have, enjoy it”. But it all came in good time, with a big help from my partner in spud crime, Jack. When we moved from living in the camper van to an AirBnb, my mood definitely picked up as well. So my advice would be to anyone feeling this way is to just throw yourself into farm work and any extra tasks. In the beginning I was too scared to drive the pickup truck and herd the sheep, but now they’re the things I enjoy most. It’s a great opportunity to save a load of money for your next adventure too. If you’re working somewhere that requires a lot of thinking to motivate yourself, sing songs! I try and remember lyrics in my head and sing songs in full to pass the time. Anything Kanye usually does the trick. Your thoughts control your emotions, so as Peter Pan would say ‘just think of a wonderful thought’!

It also helps if the farmer has the most adorable dog ever…

Please do share with me any of your experiences of farm work!