Fruit Picking in Victoria
Fruit picking is a viable and rewarding job, working hard outdoors in the Australian sun during the busy harvest period with other like-minded people. Depending on the type of fruit/vegetables, the experience will be likely involve long days, sweat and a sense of accomplishment as at the end of every day, you can see the fruits of your labour… literally.
What will I be doing?
There are a number of activities that need to be done throughout the season – fruit picking work is much more than taking fruit off trees or veggies out of the ground.
Before the season begins, you may find yourself assisting with weeds or with planting seeds and seedlings. There’s also pruning, training and thinning work available especially for grapes, stonefruit and pome fruits (apples and pears). Depending on your experience and capability, your employer may have you assisting in setting up irrigation, drainage or spraying chemicals.
Picking work varies by type of crop and region. Fruit and veg are seasonal, and in Victoria most of the fruit picking jobs and vegetable harvest jobs are in spring through to late summer (September – April). You may find yourself riding high on a cherry picker to pick stonefruit or getting up close and personal with mother earth in backbreaking strawberry picking work.
Once the crop is harvested, it will need to be stored or distributed. On some sites, the employer may require help palletising the harvest to be sent to cold storage. On others, you’ll be packing the crop for direct distribution. Again depending on your experience and capability, you might be working on a processing line, grading and sorting fruit and vegetables, or you might be using a forklift to load and unload trucks for distribution.
What you need.
Most of our clients tell us that a hard-working attitude is the most important thing you’ll need for fruit picking jobs and vegetable harvesting. Unless you’re employed as a manager or you have special licences for forklift operation or applying chemicals, you’ll just need to be prepared to learn quickly from your supervisors.
You’ll also need to remember that harvest work is physically demanding and usually entirely outdoors. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts in a breathable material are the most suitable, as even though you may get warm and sweaty there’s nothing worse than scratches from branches or sunburn during the Victorian summer! You’ll need to wear comfortable closed-in shoes and a wide-brimmed hat.
What is fair?
It is also important to know your rights when working in Australia, particularly if you are on a working visa. There are a variety of sites to visit to get more information about your rights, but a simple rule of thumb is that all workers should be paid the same for the same work and be treated the same, visa or not.
Good sources if you’re not sure about your rights whilst working in Australia include the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and Fair Work Australia. Also remember that if these expectations aren’t met, you can contact ether of the above organisations to make a complaint or receive advice.
Where to look?
Consulting picking worker networks and backpacker forums are good sources for information. Advice from people who have or still work within fruit picking can provide insight into experiences and good places to work. In addition labour hire companies are always on the lookout for people to recruit and employ for agriculture jobs within Victoria, helping connect workers with jobs all over Victoria.
The best things you can do to assist with getting a fruit picking/packing job would be an up to date resume/CV to provide when requested, a positive attitude and active networking with hostels and other associated communities. With all these resources you should easily find a fruit working employer easily and begin working hard in the great outdoors.