In Australia, there are always fruit or vegetables to pick somewhere. Fruit picking is a seasonal job much like farm work and is open to everyone. It is an ideal job for those who want to work in Australia while on a WHV because you don’t need any previous experience. These harvesting jobs are a good compromise as the season can last from a few weeks to a few months which will allow you to save money before getting back on the road. Fruit picking is also the best way to renew your Working Holiday Visa for a 2nd or 3rd year.
Each fruit has its own harvesting period and this differs from one state to another. But that’s not all! Once the fruit has been collected, it has to be sorted and packed, the plantations have to be cleaned, the trees have to be pruned and new ones planted for the following year meaning there is plenty of work. Read on for all the information on different jobs, remuneration, working conditions, seasons etc. you might need to find a job in fruit picking.
Table of Contents
The different types of jobs
The term “Fruit Picking” in Australia is not necessarily just about physically picking the fruit. Indeed, there are a multitude of jobs or tasks to be performed on these fruit farms, ranging from planting to packing fruits & vegetables.
Fruit picking is an important agricultural job. It involves picking all the fruit (or vegetables) on the trees or on the ground, except for those that are in bad condition (damaged or spoiled). However, there are many different types of picking work available.
The different types of fruit picking
First of all, let’s talk about selective picking which refers to picking the crop by colour or size picking. Colour picking consists of picking only fruit of a certain colour (the ripest). Size picking means picking only fruit of a certain size. The farmer will show you a sample of what he wants you to pick.
Bulk picking involves picking almost all the fruit produced by the tree. Only damaged fruit is removed from the crop. The quantities you pick are therefore obviously smaller than in a simple picking where all the fruit is picked. Bear in mind that this will likely have an influence on your salary.
This involves sorting and packing fruit and vegetables. You work standing up or sitting down depending on the type of fruit or vegetables – the working conditions are more or less the same as for a factory job. The atmosphere is often noisy and the work is done on a line in a warehouse or shed-type building. This work can sometimes be paid according to performance, so it will take a few days before you are really efficient. The big disadvantage of packing is that the tasks are very monotonous, indoors and the time can go slowly…
At the end of the season when the harvest is over, it is necessary to prune the trees before the next harvest. Pruning often takes place in late autumn or winter, so the working conditions will be a bit colder and/or wetter. You will be trained to cut the trees in order to give them the best possible conditions for regrowth. This is a job that is quite well paid.
This involves unloading the trees before the harvest season by removing the smallest fruits to allow others to grow. The farmer will show you what size of fruit to keep. Thinning requires some patience and a good eye.
Planting will be very variable depending on the fruit or vegetable concerned. It is most often done manually, but the use of machines (tractors) is sometimes necessary for larger trees. For the planting of young trees, a shovel and pickaxe wil become your best friends! You will be planting seeds inside a shed or out in the fields. You may also need to plant larger trees, so the work will be more physical than some other types of fruit farm work.
This job involves weeding fields or vegetable gardens. You will be pulling weeds either by hand or with the help of a spade or secateurs. Be prepared to work in difficult conditions, exposed to the sun, walking or bending down for long periods. Also, depending on the region, beware of flies sticking to your skin – a fly net will be your best friend.
Working on a fruit farm can also include other jobs as a Farm Hand! Indeed, this varied role could involve handling, fencing, jobs on solar farms, or even on grain farms. You may also need to manage grain lines (temperatures, delivery, transfers, etc.) on a farm where there is also fruit picking! Alternatively, on solar farms the main task would be the installation of solar panels. Generally, they are also looking for electricians, truck or forklift drivers. These jobs are also eligible for visa renewal and can be a good option if you can’t find a job fruit picking in Australia.
Types of fruits and vegetables
Each state in Australia offers a wide variety of fruit and vegetables to harvest throughout the year. Some are harvested on the ground while others are found on trees. Some are easier to pick than others. Here is a quick overview of the most picked fruits and vegetables:
Cherries have a reputation for being easy to pick and the work is well paid. You generally collect the cherries in buckets that you then empty into crates. Picking from trees often involves the use of ladders, which can make this a more difficult form of fruit picking.
For apples, all you need are your hands, but the picking style is more selective. Once picked, you place them in a bag around your waist, before emptying it into the bin once full. After the first few days, it is common to have achey shoulders because your bag can be heavy when filled! You will often have to climb ladders, and also walk between the trees on the ground to and from the buckets where you empty your bags of fruit. Be gentle because some apples mark very easily and the farmer often checks the condition of the fruit before signing off the load.
For oranges and lemons, picking is quick once you have mastered the “twist” movement needed to pick the fruit without tearing off the skin. You will pick with bags or buckets depending on the farm, then pouring your load into bins.
Mandarins are collected using a small pruner to help cut the stem flush with the fruit. Be careful, these trees often have thorns!
Picking strawberries is harder on your back because they are picked form the plants which are on the ground. That said, the bike often used on these farms does help make your life easier. In some farms, you will be sat on your bike with a small table in front of youwhere you will have your empty crates that you fill as you go. You just have to pedal up and down the aisles of plants to pick your strawberries while remaining seated and without damaging your back. Ingenious right?
Mangoes and peaches
Mangoes and peaches are difficult to pick because these plants secrete an allergenic liquid that can cause reactions in some people. You may have itching, pimples or even swelling in certain places (hands, face, shins etc). Protect yourself as much as possible and work with gloves and long sleeves or trousers.
Picking bananas is difficult because these fruits grow in bunches which can get extremely heavy. Also, if you are afraid of insects such as spiders, do not opt for work in banana picking. Indeed, it is not uncommon to come face to face with small (or large) beasts in these fields (we are thinking snakes). These fruits are collected with machetes, so again, be careful not to hurt yourself.
Peppers, rockmelons, onions, pumpkins and watermelons are collected from the ground and some can get very heavy. Another one which is hard on your back as the work iis mainly done while squatting or kneeling. If you already have back problems before coming to Australia, you may wan to avoid this type of farm work.
🍓 What are the best fruits to pick in Australia? 🍓
This question comes up often! We would favour fruits that are picked at eye level because as soon as they are on the ground or a ladder is needed to pick them, the work becomes more demanding. Fruits and vegetables to pick up on the ground (strawberries and melons) are therefore not recommended because your back will suffer!
Among the best fruits to pick are cherries. Indeed, these fruits are light, not very fragile and easy to pick. Tangerines are also a very good fruit to pick. Picked either by hand or with secateurs, the work is quick. Oranges can bring in a lot of money once you get the hang of picking them. However, this fruit is heavier, so remember to beware if you have a weak back!
Regions and seasons for fruit picking in Australia
Fruit picking map
You can view the Fruit Picking Australia Map, which lists nearly 400 contacts and addresses of farms in Australia. Its a great way to save time in your search for farm work, giving you direct access to the addresses and contacts of hundreds of farms without having to do any research.
The Fruit Picking Map
Are you looking for a job in Fruit Picking? Get free access to more than 400 farm contacts via our interactive map.
Where and when should you look for a job in fruit picking?
Australia is a large country with different climates, so it is possible to find eligible farm work all year round. However, certain periods are better than others, especially in summer when there are many more job openings. Don’t wait until the last moment to find a job on a farm! If you want to extend your working holiday visa, it is advised that you complete your farm days as soon as possible to ensure the possibility of a second visa.
Australia is a huge country, so the climate is not the same everywhere at the same time. Depending on the climate and the season, certain regions are better suited to growing certain types of fruit and vegetables. Summer is better for harvesting fruits and vegetables in the south of the country and in Tasmania. Winter can also be an opportunity to do crop maintenance in the south. Note that the north of the country (above the Tropic of Capricorn) is in its rainy season between November and March. The harvests can, therefore, be stopped and you may have several days without work or even become unemployed. Remember to check the seasons before looking for a job in an area.
In conclusion, remember to check the seasons before looking for a job in a region. This is especially true if you have a car and are motivated and mobile, able to move around according to where is best for work. Some backpackers go to a region without any prior information… They leave empty-handed, with travel or fuel costs and having wasted precious time.
You can find work all year round in the agricultural regions of New South Wales and Queensland. Harvests occur almost every month of the year in Western Australia, but the best time is between April and September. In South Australia, the best time is from October into summer, especially for cherries. You can find work on the farms until the winter months. For Victoria too, the summer months are best. Summer offers you a lot more job opportunities in Tasmania, especially for apples. In the cold winter months, you will also find jobs for the care of plantations and crops. Finally, avoid going to work in the Northern Territory between November and March due to the rain.
To find a job in the harvest, it is important to check the harvest calendar. So you can always be in the right place at the right time!
The seasonal calendar
To find a job in harvesting, consult the Harvest Calendar. It will help you get to the right place at the right time!
Are you looking for a fruit picking job? Check out our harvest calendar with all regions and fruits to be harvested depending on the season.
How to find a farm job?
Each year, thousands of travellers search for farm job across the country. To find a job in fruit picking in Australia, different methods can be used, but the best is still to multiply these methods to give yourself the best chance. It is essential to learn about the harvest seasons according to the regions. This will allow you to plan your trip and arrive at the right time to give you the best chance of finding a job!
⚠️ Useful to know
It’s essential to find out in advance about the harvest seasons in each region. This will enable you to plan your trip and arrive at the right time to give yourself the best chance of finding a job.
The Backpackers Guide – farm contacts (coming back soon)
There are different ways to approach employers, either by phone or by contacting farmers in person. The Australia Backpackers Guide gives you access to a list of farms across Australia. Furthermore, you will also find some important information about the conditions, seasons and the different fruits (start of the harvest season, crop losses due to weather conditions etc).
It also gives advice on how to improve your work management. Although fruit picking is not a complicated job, there are some techniques that can help you be more effective. This is particularly important because many companies do not pay their employees per hour, but for performance. In the guide, you will also find a harvest calendar, in which you can see exactly which regions are harvesting in which season and when.
Download the Backpackers Guide
Our FREE 400-page eBook contains all the information you need for your WHV in Australia :
- administrative procedures
- transport and ways of travelling
- jobs & +500 fruit picking contacts
- regions and practical life
- numerous discounts
In some cities, farmers work with independent recruiters to fill jobs. This is particularly the case in remote regions where there are not necessarily temporary employment agencies to bridge the gap between workers and employers. If you ask on the farms, the owners will often tell you: “For recruitment, we go through …”. If this happens multiple times, contact this agent directly to find a job in this area as they will be clued up on vacancies and able to get you started as soon as possible. These contractors take care of hiring workers, managing payrolls and the various administrative procedures (filling out the hiring form, retirement pension, etc.). Following abuse of the system by some people, some states have recently introduced regulations for contractors. In South Australia, Queensland, or even Victoria, contractors must now purchase a license.
Temporary employment agencies are also very present in the cities. Among them are the two most famous backpackers agencies Madec and Skill Hire. Madec has offices in several states and links to many employers maing them a useful resource.
The Australian government has created WorkForce Australia, with a section dedicated to fruit picking. Here, you’ll find a list of job offers in harvesting by state. You can then click on the vacancies that interest you and apply directly online.
Other useful sites
Here are some websites that can be useful if you are looking for a job.
- The yellow pages: in the search bar, enter the region where you are looking for work. EG enter “orchard, fruit and berry growers, vegetable growers, wineries …”.
- Gumtree: be responsive but beware, if asked to pay a deposit, ignore them!
- Other websites:
Local newspapers and notice boards
This is something you don’t necessarily think about, but it can be very useful. Take a look at the notice boards in supermarkets when you go shopping, or in youth hostels and local pubs. Reading newspapers (local, regional, city…) every day can also be a good option. Look at the job offers published each day and contact the boss if an offer interests you.
Door to door
Door-to-door canvassing is one of the most effective ways of finding a job. Farmers will appreciate meeting you before giving you a job. Especially as in Australia (in agriculture at least), job interviews aren’t exactly a dime a dozen… Contact will also be easier than by telephone. If you visit the farms during working hours (preferably in the morning or early afternoon), you’ll have a better chance of finding someone on the property. If not, remember to prepare a small note (surname, first name, reason for your visit, telephone number, etc.) to slip into the letterbox. However, you should be aware that going door-to-door in these sometimes isolated farming areas can be time-consuming and involve financial costs, which can sometimes be considerable (fuel consumption). What’s more, this type of search is only feasible if you have your own vehicle. Farming areas are not well served, so it’s difficult to use public transport.
Word of mouth
Don’t hesitate to talk to people you meet. In the pub, on the beach, in a park, during a visit… talk to the locals. They can be invaluable in your job search. Australians are altruistic and won’t hesitate to lend you a hand if they can. Talk to other backpackers you meet in hostels, tourist attractions and supermarkets. They’ll be able to share their job tips with you or give you some good advice to make your search easier.
Backpackers Hostels & Working Hostels
If you’re actively looking for a job and don’t have a place to stay, we advise you to book a stay in a youth hostel or working hostel. These hotels, very often located in agricultural areas, offer to find their guests work. They work with local employers. Many are located in Mildura and Shepparton (Victoria) or Bundaberg (Queensland).
Beware of scams in these sectors, so be vigilant! Find out well in advance about the reputation of the hotel and/or farm. Ask other backpackers for information and look for reviews on the Internet or social networks. Be aware that in some accommodation, you will be put on a waiting list (sometimes a long one) and that there is no promise of employment. What’s more, if you are not a guest of the hotel, your chances of finding a job are very slim, if not virtually non-existent.
Salary and working conditions
Wages vary depending on the farm and the type of job. The “harder” the job, the higher the pay. The same applies to the larger fruits, for which wages are generally higher. Wages are calculated on a weekly basis, paid by the hour or according to output.
Employers generally pay pickers every weekend or every fortnight. Payments are usually made by bank transfer, but can also be made by cheque, although rarely in cash. In all cases, keep your payslip safe, or ask for it if you don’t get one automatically.
In this case, you work a certain number of hours and receive a salary based on the hours worked. This method offers a degree of financial security, as you are guaranteed an income regardless of your performance.
Minimum wages for fruit picking are set by collective agreements (Awards). They may vary depending on your age and the type of contract you are employed under (full time, part time or casual). It’s important to know that casual (seasonal) workers earn more than other employees (from 15 to 25% depending on the collective agreement). The same applies to the age criterion: if you are 18, you will earn less than a 22-year-old employee. Fortunately for you, this does not apply in all areas. Finally, the hourly rate is higher if you work at night (after 6pm in general) or on public holidays (which varies from state to state).
Good to know
All minimum wages by profession (award) can be found on the FairWork website.
The national minimum wage is $882.80 based on a week of 38 ordinary hours ($23.23 per hour). This is the base rate for adult employees in the national system who are award/agreement free.
Payment by field
Depending on the fruit or vegetable, output may be calculated differently: by the number of buckets, bins, baskets, trays or weight. Your boss will then tell you a given rate for a given container (e.g. $42 for a 400kg bin). It’s all about speed, and the more you fill, the more you earn! This algorithm is very motivating for some people! Don’t set yourself a (too high) target from day 1. It’s normal to learn step by step and work on your speed as the days go by. Average pay varies between AU$ 40 and AU$ 80/bin, depending on the fruit.
Collective agreements regulate performance-related pay. Make sure you have the words “piece rate” noted in your contract with your employer. For all collective agreements and the Award to which you belong, you must be paid at least 15% more than the minimum wage.
Since 2022, workers paid on the basis of performance have been guaranteed a minimum hourly wage. This change applies to full-time, part-time and casual employees. This follows a decision by Fair Work Australia to impose a minimum wage for all performance-based workers in order to put an end to the abuses practised by some farmers. As a result, all full-time and part-time workers (Planting, picking, sorting and packing fruit and vegetables) must receive a minimum wage of at least $22.61 (since 1 July 2023).
It is therefore more advantageous to work on a performance-related rather than an hourly basis, because the minimum wage is higher.
When the harvest season comes around, it’s common for bosses to ask their employees to be extremely productive. This is perfectly normal. You may be asked to work 6 days a week for 10 hours a day, sometimes more, sometimes less.
Often, because of the heat, you’ll start early in the morning. On rare occasions, some farmers will even let you choose your own working hours. If you want to arrive an hour later in the morning or leave an hour earlier at the end of the day, that’s possible, as is the case if you don’t want to work at the weekend. This option is a disadvantage for you because you won’t be earning any money. We advise you to work as much as you can to put as much money aside as possible so that you can continue your road trip in the best possible conditions and as fast as possible as these will all count towards your days for your renewed visa. All the more so when you consider that agricultural regions are often far from tourist areas. Just remember that it’s a ‘blessing in disguise’ over a given period, and that you’ll make up for it later.
Working in agriculture requires you to be in good physical condition. Don’t panic if you’re not a top athlete, you can still work in fruit picking. Women are also you’re just as capable of working in this field as men. Every traveller has a chance of finding a job in fruit picking, the hard part is keeping it. With a little willpower and courage, you should be able to do it!
It’s hard, repetitive work. You will be standing, kneeling or bending over for several hours. You’ll suffer from muscular aches all over your body (especially in the first few days) and intense fatigue. This is normal, given the effort your body will be putting in every day.
This is essential for all pickers! You’ll need plastic boots, a hat, a pair of gloves, trousers and preferably long-sleeved T-shirts to protect you from insects, tree scratches and sunburn. A hat is essential in summer, as it covers your neck, forehead and face. You can also take sun cream and sunglasses with you (it’s a good idea to buy an ordinary pair rather than taking your favourite pair). A waterproof mac can also be useful (sometimes they are provided by your employers), as working in the rain is not at all pleasant. Remember to take plenty of water with you (several litres a day) as well as a fly net (and repellent) if you find it necessary. If you’ve come to Australia without any equipment, we recommend cheap shops such as Vinnies or Salvos to kit yourself out. Alternatively, try second-hand shops, where you’ll find everything you need without breaking the bank.
Fairwork and your rights
Even as a foreign worker, you have rights. Don’t let yourself be exploited by malicious farmers and make sure you’re paid the legal minimum wage. Before you leave your farm, make sure you have all your wages as it will be more difficult to manage this from a distance. In addition, always ask for a payslip (if you are not given one with every pay). On the other hand, if your employer refuses to pay you even after discussion, don’t hesitate to contact Fairwork. This is a government body responsible for relations and conflicts in the world of work. It will be able to assist you in your efforts to obtain redress.
It’s generally easier to find a job if you have your own vehicle and accommodation. The farmer will be able to offer you accommodation on his property. Most of the time, caravans, tents, mobile homes or even rooms will be made available to pickers. You can live there throughout the season, often for very affordable rent (e.g. $20/week). Cooking facilities, showers and toilets, as well as electrical appliances such as washing machines and tumble dryers, may or may not be available free of charge. These facilities are often rudimentary, bearing in mind that you are working in agriculture. Don’t expect great luxury. If this is not the case, you will often find caravan parks and backpacker hotels in the area.
Food and travel
Your meals will usually be at your own expense when you’re working. So you’ll have to shop and cook (at least). You’ll probably be in an isolated area, so your choice of shops will be limited. Very often, you’ll find just one supermarket in the town, or at best a small supermarket. Don’t hesitate to ask people on the farm where they get their supplies, especially locals. Some farms organise weekly shuttles to take their employees to the local supermarket. Don’t forget to ask this question when you arrive (or before!).
As far as getting around is concerned, if your accommodation is several kilometres from the farm, you’ll need to get organised. In most cases, there will be no public transport, so car pooling is a good alternative. Some farms also provide shuttle services (for a fee or not) between your accommodation and the farm. They’ll be sure to let you know.
The fact that you are isolated is a considerable advantage, as you will spend much less money than if you were on the road. Everything you earn during the season goes into your bank account. It’s a great way to save money!
Relationships with other workers and employers
Working abroad (and living together) allows you to meet the locals and integrate into local life. The good thing about fruit picking is that you can work in every Australian state. This will allow you to meet people from all over the country.
You’ll be working with backpackers from all over the world, and that’s a real human experience. Living together will enable you to learn things about yourself and others that you didn’t know before. That’s the magic of travelling and meeting people. You may come across some difficult employers… If this is the case, discuss it. The situation can certainly be resolved. And if not, don’t persist and stress yourself out too much over it either… Don’t hesitate to change farms if you don’t feel comfortable – you don’t have to stay on the same farm the whole time.
10 tips for improving and earning more
These tips apply to you if you work on a farm and are paid by performance. There are several techniques you can use to improve your productivity. Here’s how:
- Pick fruit with both hands at the same time – it’s much quicker!
- When picking from trees, start at the top and work your way down. That way, you won’t have to carry a loaded bucket/bag up the ladder for a while or climb down the ladder with it; you can have up to twenty kilos in a bag, which is really heavy!
- Avoid damaging the fruit. Most farms will check the contents of your basket. You may not be paid if the damage is really serious.
- Avoid unnecessary movement. Pick one area at a time, one tree after another, and make sure you haven’t missed anything so you don’t have to retrace your steps. When you change trees, always take your ladder with you to carry it straight away so you don’t have to go back and forth unnecessarily.
- Beware of overloading! Don’t ruin your back… You need to be efficient over time. Don’t overfill your bag/bucket so much that you injure yourself.
- Try to find a picking technique to suit your task
- Place your buckets properly/tie your bag correctly
- If you’re in a couple or with a friend, try to find techniques as a duo…
- Help each other!
- Find your balance to stay on course. Look for and try new techniques, and look to others for ideas. And don’t hesitate to ask the farmers, who will be able to advise you better than anyone else.
Renewing your Working Holiday Visa
Second year visa
If you have a WHV visa, you can renew it twice. All you need to do to stay in Australia for a further two years is meet certain conditions. You must have worked for 88 days (i.e. 3 months) in one of the eligible jobs listed by the Australian government. Farm work is one of the most accessible jobs for obtaining your days to renew. You can apply for your second visa without leaving Australian territory, online.
Simply go here and apply no more than 28 days before your 1st visa expires. Of course, we strongly advise you to apply a little earlier in case there are any problems. This visa application must be made in the year in which you turn 35 at the latest, and you must not have any dependent children (as for the 1st visa). The fee is $635 for 12 months.
Please note: If you obtain your second WHV before your first visa expires, the remaining period of your first visa will not be lost. Your new visa will start from the date your first WHV ends.
You can find more information here: Eligible regions to extend your Working Holiday Visa
Third year visa
To apply for a third year visa, you must work for at least 179 days or 6 months on farms or do eligible jobs in certain regions of Australia during your second year. The jobs and eligible regions are the same as for the second year. This also costs $635 for 12 months.
Remember that all specified subclass 417, 462 work must be paid in accordance with the relevant Australian legislation and awards.
NOTE : The Free Trade Agreement brought massive changes for Working Holiday Visa Makers! Under the new arrangements, UK passport holders will be able to be granted up to three Working Holiday visas without having to meet any specified work requirements from 1 July 2024.
Unfortunately, scams have become commonplace on Australian farms. The regions renowned for fruit picking (Gatton, Shepparton, Bundaberg) are full of scams of all kinds. Keep your eyes open and pay attention to every detail. Above all, never pay in advance for someone to book you a room or even a job. Similarly, if after starting your job you are not paid, it is difficult to get your pay or your salary does not meet the legal minimums, contact the Fair Work Ombudsman directly.
Having a vehicle helps when looking for farm work, but it is not essential. It makes it easier to go from farm to farm, you can have a look around and choose the farm you like best. If you can sleep in your car, it’s even better, as farmers appreciate that you have your “own home.”
Having a good command of English is not essential for working in harvesting, but it can help when applying for jobs and talking to your potential employers. It is essential for you to be able to understand instructions though.
Cherries have the reputation of being easy to pick and to be well paid, on the contrary tomatoes or onions aren’t. That said, it all depends on your employer, your efficiency and your motivation (if you are paid by performance). It’s difficult to generalise because wages vary from farm to farm and can also change depending on the season (good or bad harvest).
There is not really a best place or town for Fruit Picking. On the other hand, there are agricultural regions that are better known because they employ more workers throughout the year. The disadvantage is that these areas are often packed with backpackers. For example, you’ll hear about Mildura, Shepparton, or Bundaberg. In these regions, wages are often lower and scams more numerous. The best way to find a good Fruit Picking job is probably to go away from the coast, and avoid too “popular” areas. Workers are more sought after in these regions, but then again, there is also less work.
Before starting a job, make sure to check that the kind of work and the region are eligible for your Second Year Visa.
Until July 2024, UK passport holders are still required to do some regional work (picking, waitressing, fishing etc) to renew their WHV. After 1st July 2024, it won’t be a requirement anymore 🙂
Updated on 07/10/2023