Farm Work Australia is definitely an experience that you won’t forget, whether that be a good thing or a bad thing.
There are so many horror stories out there that usually involve people being paid something ridiculous like $3 an hour, or they’ve ended up in some shack in the middle of nowhere with a couple of cows for neighbours.
First thing’s first, be smart.
Being paid less that the minimum wage in Australia ($18.29p/h) is technically classed as ‘slavery’; it’s illegal. There are a number of legit farms who pay, and treat you properly so no matter how desperate you are, don’t fall for the tricks. You need to earn a certain amount of money over the duration of your time, therefore working on a farm who pays under the minimum wage will not count regardless. Don’t do it. The government recently came up with a new law that each backpacker must be paid $22.86 per hour when working on a farm in Australia. This figure increased from $22.13 with the new tax year, 2017.
Secondly, make sure you research specific areas for Farm Work before you pack your things and make your way there. Australia is huge, and each state has a different time of year in which they are in season for farm work. The majority of farms in Queensland for example, run from May through until Mid November/December.
Think about how much time you have and whether it fits in with the season in the place you are looking to go to. These websites are really useful in providing information regarding when and where to go:
Farm Work Australia
How to Find Legitimate Farm Work in Australia
The best way to find legit farms is by going to a Working Hostel. These hostels have deals with the farmers so you get a job, and the owner of the hostel gets some sort of commission. The majority of these farms are legit and you will soon realise if they are or not when you’re first pay check comes in. Check to make sure you are being paid the correct amount ($22.86 p/h).
If you do not want to be in a Working Hostel, there are many family farms that are also legit. Check on this website, which is run by the government, to see if you can find a farm: https://jobsearch.gov.au/harvest
I ended up moving to Bowen, in Queensland and lived in a working hostel called Aussie Tavern (Nomads). I had heard many horror stories about Farm Work in general, but I was especially worried about the place I would end up staying at.
The Aussie Tavern is clean, has 2 kitchens (although not big enough once the hostel is full) and a big pool outside with outdoor seating and a sunbathing area. It is a decent place to crash, especially if you’re waiting around for work.
Living in a Working Hostel
The good thing about living in a working hostel is that the manager has contacts with a number of farms in the area. They are able to get you the work as soon as anything comes available (in a first come first served matter). They also provide transport to take you to and from work which is included in your rent.
The down side is, the owners are very aware of how desperate backpackers are for work. They tend to take advantage of that by charging ridiculous amount of rent. I paid $230 a week to live in a 6 bed dorm. If you need a comparison to put the price into perspective, I was paying $240 for a 2-bed room in the heart of Sydney overlooking Darling Harbour!!
It gets difficult at times if you are on a farm without much work and living in a hostel as your paycheck goes straight on rent. There are other options, especially if you have your own transport. You can live in shared houses or camp sights, as long as you can get yourself to work, people will hire you. It is totally down to luck of the draw whether you will make, break even, or lose money while doing your farm work.
Thirdly, expect the worst and be ‘pleasantly surprised’. I won’t lie and tell you that farm work is great – it’s not. There are a small handful of people who are given fab jobs such as driving the tractor all day, or cutting a few wires here and there, but honestly, for the majority of people like me and you, we’re given the hardest, and most painful jobs on the farm. Planting or picking any sort of fruit or vegetable is hands down the hardest job.
Farm Work Australia
The constant back pain never goes away and keeping up your good spirit is a challenge in itself, not to mention the horrific t-shirt tan lines. I worked both in the field picking, but also in the shed packing all kinds of things over 4 months and the shed isn’t much easier – it’s a mental challenge.
Your opinion is completely invalid and this can be extremely frustrating, especially when you know you could help (or think you could ;)…). You have to think though that the people you are working for have spent their entire life to create the farm you’re working on, and once you have that in mind, you learn to accept your position as ‘a robot’ and just get on with things the way the tell you too.
Work gets extremely repetitive and you don’t even need to think about what you’re doing once you get the hang of it. Make sure you keep your mind active with a few puzzles or Sudoku every once in a while or you’ll feel yourself becoming rather dumb ha!
Farm work can have its positives. Yeah the 5am wake up, and long hours in the heat aren’t cool, but the people you meet are incredible and definitely friends for life. These people go through the ups and downs with you and help you out the other side. Weekends are good fun as everyone comes together after a long week of work to have a couple (or more) drinks.
Working in these conditions definitely teaches you how to make the most of what you have and challenges you to stay positive in all kinds of situations. If farm work doesn’t break you, you will come out a stronger person than you have ever been!