Fruit Picking is a global term which brings together all the manual work relating to the agricultural field. This includes picking fruit, wrapping it, pruning trees or other agricultural work. All these jobs are the most suitable for those who wish to work in Australia for the short or medium duration. Very popular with Working Holiday Visa travellers, they do not require special skills or a very good level of English. It is also the best way to be able to renew your Working Holiday Visa for a 2nd or 3rd year. Here is all the information you need on fruit picking in Australia. The different types of fruit picking jobs, remuneration, living conditions but also information on obtaining a second and third Working Holiday Visa.
The different types of jobs
Fruit picking comes first in agricultural work. However, there are different types of picking. Fruits and vegetables can be picked up, from the ground or from trees, under very variable conditions.
The different types of fruit picking
We can do selective picking. For example, colour picking, where you only pick fruit with a certain colour (riper). Or where you only pick fruits of a certain size (size picking). The farmer will certainly show you samples of what needs to be picked up. This, therefore, implies smaller quantities picked than during a massive pickup, and will, therefore, have an influence on your salary if you are paid by the yield. Mass harvesting consists of picking up almost all the fruit produced by the tree. Only damaged fruits are removed. Easier than selective collection, this picking generally takes place at the end of the harvest period.
The different fruits and vegetables
Some fruits are easier to pick up than others. Here is a quick overview of the most picked fruits and vegetables:
- Cherries have a reputation for being easy to pick and well paid. You just need a hand and you can pick up a lot of fruit. 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 difficult.
- For apples, it is enough to take the hand to pick quickly but often, the picking type is selective. Once picked, you place them in your belly bag, before emptying it into the bin. The first days, it is common to have aches in the shoulders because the bag when filled is heavy! You will often have to climb ladders and walk between the tree only where you pick up the fruit and the bucket where you empty your bag. Be gentle in your movements because some apples mark very quickly and the farmer often checks the condition of the fruit.
- For oranges and lemons, picking is quick once the “twist” is under control (wrist shot to pick without tearing off the skin). You can pick with bags or buckets depending on the farm. You then pour them into bins.
- Mandarins are collected using a small pruner. It is indeed necessary to cut the stem flush with the fruit. Be careful, trees often have thorns!
- Strawberries are painful for your back (picking from the ground).
- Mangoes and peaches are difficult to collect because these plants secrete an allergenic liquid that can cause reactions sometimes. You may have itching, pimples or even swelling in certain places (hands, face). Protect yourself as much as possible and work with gloves and long sleeves.
- Peppers, rock melons and watermelons (watermelons) are collected from the ground. Again, expect to have back pain!
It consists of sorting and packaging fruits and vegetables. The working conditions are close to those in the factory. You work standing or sitting depending on the fruits and vegetables. The atmosphere is often noisy and the tasks are carried out in a chain in a shed. These positions can be performance-based, so plan a few days before you can be effective. They are less numerous and the working conditions less difficult than for fruit picking. The big disadvantage of packing is that the tasks are very monotonous.
After the harvest, it is necessary to prune the trees before the next harvest. Pruning often takes place in late fall or winter, so working conditions will be a bit difficult (cold, rain). You will be trained in how to cut trees, how and which branch to cut so that the tree grows best. It’s a job that pays pretty well in general.
This involves unloading the trees before the harvest season. We, therefore, remove the smallest fruits to allow others to grow. The farmer will also show you what size of fruit to keep. Thinning requires some patience.
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, shovel and pickaxe can be your daily life! Planting brings together several tasks. This can be planting seeds in a shed or in the fields. You may also need to plant already larger trees, work will be more physical.
Here you will be asked to weed fields or vegetable gardens. You can either pull the weeds by hand or with a spade. Prepare for difficult working conditions, under the sun with a lot of walking and depending on the region a lot of flies.
Working on the farm can also include other jobs as a Farm Hand! Indeed, we think of 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! These jobs, also eligible for visa renewal and can be a good option if you can’t find a job in fruit picking in Australia!
How to find a farm job?
Each year thousands of travellers travel the country in search of a farm job. To find a job in fruit picking in Australia, different methods can be used. But the best is still to multiply these methods to put the most chances on your side. 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!
The Australian government has launched a website called Harvest Job dedicated to fruit picking. You can download a free guide that lists the different types of fruit/vegetables to be harvested depending on the season and region. A new edition is available every year with updates on the seasons and harvests.
Call the Harvest Trail directly at 1800 062 332. One piece of advice: call early in the morning to get job vacancies, as they are quickly gone.
The Backpackers Guide – farm contacts
The Australia Backpackers Guide gives you access to a list of farms across Australia (around 500 contacts). These addresses will help you find a job on a farm in Australia. Furthermore, the Backpacker Guide has some important information about the conditions and the season o the different fruits (the start of the harvest season, crop losses due to weather conditions) or refers you to another farm that may need farmworkers. The Australia Backpackers Guide 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 (contractors). 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, you will need to contact this agent directly to find a job in this city. These contractors take care of hiring workers, managing payrolls and the various administrative procedures (filling out the hiring form, retirement pension, etc.).
Following abuse 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 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 for whom they work.
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, enter “orchard, fruit and berry growers, vegetable growers, wineries …”.
Be reactive and when asked to pay a deposit, run away!
- The specialised websites
Local newspapers and billboards
Do not hesitate to read local newspapers or billboards in supermarkets or local hotels or pubs. Sometimes vacancies are advertised.
Door to door is one of the most effective solutions to find a job on a farm. Farmers will appreciate meeting you before giving you a job, and contact will be easier than by phone. Visit farms during working hours to find someone on the property is more likely. If not, it can be useful to prepare small notes that fit in the mailbox and contain your application and phone number. Note, however, that door-to-door in these sometimes isolated agricultural regions can take time and can incur financial costs, which are sometimes significant (fuel consumption). This search mode is only possible if you have your own vehicle. In fact, agricultural regions are not well served, making it difficult to use public transport.
Talk to people you meet on your trip. Talk to the locals when you shop or other backpackers you meet in hostels or pubs. Many will be happy to give you their tips if you ask for them. The locals will be happy to help you if they can!
Backpackers Hostels & Working Hostels
Go to hostels and have a look at their blackboard. Sometimes you can leave your name at the front desk to include it in a list of people looking for a job. If you are not a “guest” of the hostel, the chances of results are lower!
Some hostels (in agricultural areas) offer their hosts to find work on farms. There are many around Mildura, Bundaberg, Shepparton. They connect with local employers. This may be interesting, but there is no guarantee, the waiting time can be long, depending on the time of year and some take advantage of the system. So be careful and don’t hesitate to ask the other young people in the hostel before you book a room. Also, remember to check the reviews on the internet or on Facebook.
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. A great way to find out where the farms are and contact them by phone or go there!
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 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 also advisable to 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. 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 the rainy season between November and March. The harvests can, therefore, be stopped and you may become unemployed. Remember to check the seasons before looking for a job in an area.
It is possible to 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 from October is summer, especially for cherries. You can find work on the farms until the winter months. For Victoria, too, prefer the summer months. 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!
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.
Types of crops and the best fruits
Every state in Australia offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that can be harvested all year round. Some fruits and vegetables are harvested from the ground, others from trees, and the use of a ladder is therefore required. Cherries are of course one of the best fruits. Indeed, these fruits are light, not very fragile and easy to pick (and, moreover, delicious). In addition, depending on the company, you can sometimes be paid by the hour.
Fruits and vegetables to be picked from the ground (strawberries, melons) are not recommended as your back will get very sore. Mandarins are also very good fruit for picking. If you want to pick either by hand or with a small pair of secateurs, the picking process is quick and the fruits are not very fragile. Oranges can make a lot of money once you have the grip to pick them. However, this fruit is heavier, so expect a sore back!
Salary and working conditions
Wages vary depending on the company and the employment contract. The more difficult the job, the higher the salary should be. For larger fruits, wages are generally higher. Wages are paid weekly, by the hour or according to performance (basket, tree, tray, etc.). Employers usually get paid every week or fortnightly. Payments are made by bank transfer, check or in cash. In any case, keep an eye on it (payslip).
In this case, you work a certain number of hours and receive a salary based on the hours you worked. This method offers financial security, you are sure of your income regardless of your performance.
The collective agreements
The minimum wage for fruit picking or other work in Australia is set out in collective agreements (awards).
They vary depending on the age and type of contract under which you are employed (full-time, part-time or casuals). Casuals must be paid more than permanent employees (15 to 25% depending on the collective agreement).
In order to know the legal minimum wage to which you are entitled, it is important to know the professional sector on which you are dependent. In fact, the minimum wage varies from job to job as it is set out in collective agreements. For example, if you work in horticulture, you are dependent on the “Horticulture Award“. Or, if you work in the vineyards, it will be the “Wine Industry Award“.
Good to know
All minimum wages by profession (award) can be found on the FairWork website.
Also note that the minimum wage can also depend on the age of the worker. An 18 year old worker receives less than a 20 year old worker even if he does the same job. The hourly rate is also higher if you work at night (generally after 6 p.m.) or on public holidays (varies from state to state).
To give you an idea, the minimum wage in horticulture for an employee over 20 years of age full time or part-time is $19.49 per hour (standard time). Public holidays are $38.98 per hour. However, an 18-year old earns $17.93 an hour for normal hours.
For a person who is working during the holidays, it will be higher. Take the same example with an employee aged 20 and over who works on weekdays and at normal times (before 6 p.m.). The minimum hourly wage is $24.36. If he works on public holidays, it is $43.85.
There is no agreement for age-related wages for employees in viticulture. Only the contract (full-time, part-time, casual) and the work time affects the minimum hourly rate. During normal hours (day) on weekdays, the hourly rate is $19.78. On public holidays, it will be $49.45.
When the wage is based on your piece rate, do not be surprised if your first payment is not up to your expectations. But persevere to get a higher wage the next payment.
You may be paid according to the number of buckets filled or the weight harvested. In the first case, it is a filing fee. The more bins you fill (skips of 400 or 500 kg), the more you will be paid! In the beginning, you will not do a lot of bins (1 or 2 per day). The average salary varies between $60 and 80/ bin depending on the fruit. When paid by weight, the farmer weighs your harvest at the end of the day and your salary is determined accordingly.
Work performance pay
Your salary depends on the fruits and vegetables you pick. Don’t expect to earn much at first. But don’t despair, once you’ve learned the technique, you can make a lot of money! Collective agreements regulate performance remuneration. Make sure that the “unit price” is stated in your written contract with your employer.
Depending on the collective agreements and on which you are dependent, you have to be paid between 15 and 20% more than the minimum wage. For example, an average wine worker must receive 20% more than the minimum wage. For example, a full-time worker must earn AUD $23.73 an hour (AUD $19.78 (hourly wages) + 20% (incentive wages) = AUD $23.73).
According to these rules, you can earn more money with it than with an hourly paid job for a minimum wage. However, please note that learning the right picking technique takes some time and therefore has a high yield rate. Your salary should, therefore, increase with experience. Also, note that collective agreements do not stipulate that you get at least the minimum wage. So if you work too slowly, you will be paid below the minimum wage and this is legal.
When the harvest is ready, your employer often demands high productivity. Some even ask you to work 6 or 7 days a week. In these agricultural regions, where tourist attractions are often poor, it may be good to work as much as you can so that you can continue your journey quickly. And often we find that the weeks pass faster when we work 7 days a week. So why not? Working conditions are sometimes difficult and at high temperatures in the afternoon it is common to only work from 8:30 am. to 3 pm. Depending on the region and working hours, you may have to start earlier in the morning (7 am.).
Note that these are usually strenuous work positions that put your physical condition to the test. Sometimes you work on the ground or on a ladder with your arms up to the sky. The work will often repeat itself and be exhausting.
It is important to know that these jobs require a good general physical condition, as you often use muscles in your body that you never even thought existed! Most of the fruit picking work in Australia is carried out under difficult climatic conditions. However, this type of work remains accessible to everyone, it is not necessary to be a great athlete. Sometimes women are even more agile than men when it comes to certain tasks. Everyone can find their place in this type of work. Provided you have the will and of course a little courage.
Fairwork and your rights
Even if you are a foreign worker, you have rights! Don’t be exploited and make sure you get the legal minimum wage. Try to get the maximum payment for all of your working days before you leave. In the event of a dispute, request all information such as ABN, taxes paid, etc. for your tax return. If your employer hasn’t paid you after a conversation, or refuses to pay you, don’t hesitate to contact Fairwork. This government agency is responsible for relationships and conflicts in the world of work.
It is usually easier to find a job if you have your own vehicle and therefore accommodation. In general, caravans, tents or rooms are made available to the pickers for an often mocking rent. If this is not the case, the best solutions remain the caravan parks and backpacker hotels nearby or sometimes parking your campervan on the property. Some farms provide their employees with cooking facilities and various household appliances (washing machine, dryer, etc.). It is important to inquire about the on-site equipment and the applicable prices in advance. However, note that the accommodations offered are very often “rudimentary”. Just like the common kitchen and toilets. So don’t expect a lot of luxury!
Food and how to get around
You will surely be isolated while working on the farm. Meals are your responsibility when you work and it is up to you to cook yourself. Shopping is limited in remote areas. This is often limited to a supermarket or a small supermarket. Ask the farmer and his staff for the best places to stock up on supplies. Some farms organise shuttles to take workers to the local supermarket. So remember to ask when you arrive.
Your trip is limited if you live on the farm. However, if your hostel or campsite is only a few kilometres from the farm, you will need to arrange transportation. There is no public transport. So try to organise yourself with the other employees. For example, share the transportation costs with those who have a vehicle. Some farms also offer shuttles (paid or free) to transport employees from their accommodation to the farm.
In general, the farm is on an isolated location. It can be a little scary, but it has many advantages! One of the least significant is that you spend a lot less money. Since the farms are rural and isolated, spending is rather rare! Everything you earn remains in your bank account. So you can save a lot of money.
Relationships with employers and other workers
With these jobs, you can meet both locals and travellers from all over the world. Working on a farm is a real human experience! You will meet hardworking and friendly people there, you may meet difficult employers, but it will still be a unique experience! Fruit picking also allows you to change jobs regularly to work and meet new people across Australia.
10 tips to improve your work performance and earn more money
Here are some techniques to improve performance. In fact, there are many techniques that can be more effective. Especially since many companies pay their employees based on performance and not on the hour!
- Pick up the fruit with both hands independently, it is much faster!
- When picking in the trees, start from the top of the tree down little by little so you don’t have to wear a bucket or a bag loaded to the rise
- Avoid damaging the fruit, most of the farms will control the contents of your bin
- Avoid unnecessary trips, pick up a zone-by-zone
- Attention to the weight! Don’t break your back … You have to be effective over a long period of time
- Try to find a picking technique that works for you
- Put down your buckets
- If you are a couple or a friend, try to work together
- Help each other!
- Do your best on the first day and then find your balance to stay on course!
Appropriate clothing for farm work
Appropriate clothing is definitely a must! Bring rubber boots, gloves, pants, and a long-sleeved T-shirt to protect yourself from insects, tree scratches, and sunburn. The hat can be essential in summer because it covers the neck, forehead and face. A raincoat can be useful (sometimes your employers provide it). Also remember to bring bottles of water, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Sometimes a fly protection net can keep you cool! If you are not equipped and want to buy clothes cheaply, go to shops like Vinnies, Salvos or second-hand shops. There you will find everything you need without spending a fortune.
Renew your Working Holiday Visa
Second year visa
If you have a WHV, you can renew it twice! In fact, you can stay in Australia for two more years under certain conditions. If you work in certain areas and regions for 3 months or 88 days, you have the right to extend your WHV for a second year! Fruit picking in Australia is one of the most accessible tasks to do your 88 days of regional work, but it’s not the only one. Here are the areas where you can work:
- Plant and animal cultivation
- Fishing and pearling
- tree farming and felling in
You can find more information here: Eligible regions to extend your Working Holiday Visa
Third year visa
Since July 1, 2019, people on a WHV can apply for the third year visa! To do this, you must work for at least 179 days or 6 months on farms or do specified work in certain regions of Australia in your second year. The jobs and eligible regions are the same as for the second year.
How to avoid scams
Unfortunately, fraud is widespread. Regions in Australia known for fruit picking (Gatton, Shepparton, Bundaberg) are more affected than others. Above all, never pay for your accommodation in advance to reserve a job for yourself. If you have problems getting paid at the beginning of your job or your salary does not meet the minimum legal requirements, please contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.