In this post I wanted to go into more detail about the work itself and give you guys some recommendation based on my experiences. I have worked on 5 different farms during my time in Australia so I have experienced both good and bad farms, different types of produce and many different roles. I will categorise them by produce to make it easier and to give a general view of what it is for each type of farm I have experienced.
The work itself really isn't glamorous and I really wasn’t sure how I was going to react to my first experience of hard graft. It definitely isn't for everyone, but I would say it is definitely doable once you put your mind to it. I was expecting the absolute worst when I went to do my farm work from hearing other people’s crazy stories and from freaking myself out from overthinking, but personally I don’t think it ended up being as bad as I thought it would be.
I completed the majority of my farm work on banana farms in Northern Queensland and I just want to give a word of warning to anyone considering this type of work; working on banana farms comes with some pretty wacky wildlife! I have always been pretty terrified of spiders and cockroaches but considering I then also had to worry about snakes, bats, rats and cane toads you learn to toughen up to it pretty quickly. I was obviously still scared (especially as some of said snakes and spiders could kill me) but I just had to get into the zone where I could stop worrying about them and just move quickly by if I came across them. I was never complacent, don't get me wrong, you still have to be careful and to the best of your ability not antagonise the wildlife as there are things that can do you harm.
With banana farms there are so many different roles you can end up doing dependent on how long you’ve been there and your gender (this is a general statement, there may also be other factors like previous experience etc). For females you will generally be working in the packing shed, sorting and packing the bananas as they come in. For guys they will generally work out in the paddocks either banana humping (yes that’s really what it’s called) or cutting. Girls get the easier deal by far! For guys it is hard work and generally involves a lot of heavy lifting. This does not mean it’s cruisey all round for the ladies, trust me I know, but we do get it a little easier.
On my first farm I was working in the shed sorting, packing and making box lids. Our farm was fairly relaxed in that you could talk and listen to music which helped you not to go insane. The work itself is very monotonous (in other words super boring) and gives you a lot of aches and pains. It’s very easy but you are expected to work quickly and efficiently and the motion of lifting and checking the banana bunches can give you bad wrist strain and your back will be sore from bending over the conveyor belt all day.
On the second banana farm I worked on I began working outside doing irrigation. This basically meant I was cleaning and fixing the sprinklers out in the paddocks. This was fairly simple again and I actually didn’t mind it. Because I was soaking wet all day it meant I stayed cool even out in the heat, the only downside was that they used fish guts as fertiliser in the sprinklers. Yeah, that was pretty disgusting. On the plus side though I got to ride on the quad bike a couple of times!
On my third banana farm, which was actually the same as my second but I was employed by a contractor instead, I was outside again but this time dieseling. This meant I was injecting tree stumps with diesel to kill them to ensure there were only two banana trees growing in one spot at one time. This was difficult in the way that I struggled being out in the heat all day, my hands are still to this day totally fucked from squeezing the diesel gun over and over again and I had a pack of 5 litres of diesel on my back which was heavy and leaked diesel all over me. I did actually like this job because my boss was awesome and I got to listen to music or podcasts all day, but it was definitely more physically demanding than my previous ones.
I took a break for a while after the banana farms before getting my final days done and decided I wanted to try something different. I decided to head to Mildura with a group of friends I had met in Melbourne and try a fig farm. Everyone says not to go to Mildura because they rip backpackers off and mess you around, and they say it for a reason! We decided not to listen and learnt the hard way its a terrible place to do your regional work. From my experience the farmers were awful and it has one of the worst working hostels in the country (Mildura Oasis Backpackers fyi). My experience was a little more testing as I was living in a tent at the time, but the worst part was that on the farm I made $115 after four days working outside in 40°C. It was shocking.
Even though I had no money and desperately needed to finish my days I could not put myself through that, so I had to quit. After a week or so of scouring the internet and calling numerous places we finally landed a gig working on a tomato farm in South Australia. Well I say tomato farm, at the time it was a construction site. Yeah, me on a construction site! I again got fairly lucky in that they never gave me anything I couldn't handle and I actually didn't mind the work. That being said though it was long hours, six days a week and as it was in greenhouses in the desert the temperature would regularly be over 50°C. I actually don't know how I coped! Again the work was monotonous and some days you really did think you would go insane, but asides from some heavy lifting the work itself was fairly simple.
So those are my experiences on farms and although ideally I would have liked to have done it all in one go in one place, it definitely was an interesting experience doing it at a few different farms in different states. Apologies for the lengths of these posts but there’s just so much I can say about it and I hope it has been helpful to anyone reading. For anyone looking for recommendations I always recommend Backpacker Shack where I stayed in Innisfail as I find them the most consistent at finding work and they generally make the process a lot easier. I was also highly recommend staying the fuck away from Mildura, don’t make my mistake guys!