Farm work – inevitable struggle that backpackers in Australia need to go through in order to get the 2nd year working holiday visa. Well, it doesn’t have to be farm work (check eligible fields here), but most of the backpackers end up doing their 88 days on farms. I believe most of us have heard horror stories about farm work and I have also met many backpackers who decided to let go of their second year visa because of bad experiences on the farms.
If you do decide to do your 88 days in farms, here is my tips on how to find farm work in Australia.
Struggling with farm work may have given me few extra gray hairs, but I survived and so can you. In my case, the major cause of extra panicking was the fear that I’m running out of time. So my first tip is:
TIP 1: Start looking for 2nd year visa work early! Earlier the better. Seasons can be unpredictable so you may not be able to finish your farm work on the same farm. Also, prepare yourself that it can take more than three months to get your visa days. Farm work is usually really dependent on weather, so you may not be able to work every day.
I ended up doing my farm work in four different farms, from which about half were good and half not so good. The time spent on the worst farm, which was the first farm I worked, was actually only time I have seriously considered going back home. Then again, the time spent on the good farms ended up being the best time I’ve had in Australia. So as a conclusion:
TIP 2: If you end up working on a farm where you don’t like to be and are not running out of time to get your days – leave. There is no point wasting your limited time here in Australia by being miserable. I know farm work is not always too easy to find, but there is still good farms out there.
Finding farm work
Before you start looking for a farm job to get your 88 days, you should first learn the rules to know what kind of work is eligible towards your visa. It would be very unfortunate if you put a lot of effort in getting a farm job and find out later that the work doesn’t even count towards the 2nd year visa.
Read More: 88 Days – FAQ About 2nd Year Visa Work
If you have no idea about farm work or no knowledge of seasons and what grows where, harvest trail is a good place to start. They have a phone line where you can call and enquire open positions and ask about ongoing or upcoming seasons. They also have a pdf version of the harvest book (open here), where you can get some insight about the seasons.
Gumtree is a bit controversial platform for job hunting. There is a lot of jobs and especially many small farms find their employees through gumtree. But because anyone can post an ad on gumtree there is also a lot of scams. It is advisable to act extra cautious with gumtree – always google the farm, see if it has bad reviews and check if the ABN is real.
You can either look for open positions or post your own job application, which we did and got our first farm job. We didn’t like working on that farm but it paid a minimum wage and signed visa days. The farm where we worked hired people solely from checking the resumes section on gumtree. I suppose many small farms do this, since they don’t have enough resources to go through applications they would receive by posting an open position ad.
We got actually quite a lot of calls and messages from our gumtree application, but most of them were either too far or didn’t qualify for the second year visa (=didn’t pay minimum wage). One reason why our application got interest was that we owned a car. Because farms are located outside public transport you do need to have your own transport either to get to the farm or out from the farm to do grocery shopping etc. The farm where we worked hired only people who owned a car, which was the main reason they contacted us in the first place. In bigger farms ride shares are quite easy to organize, but on the small farms it can be difficult.
TIP 3: Having a car increases the amount of potential farms.
Read more: How to Buy a Backpacker Car in Australia
Fruit Picking Jobs posts quite a lot of open farm positions so it is good page to keep an eye on. Working Holiday Jobs and Backpacker Job Board are good pages to look at, they post also other jobs than just farm positions. You can also try to ask backpacker groups about potential farms.
Job search websites
The biggest ones are:
There are also some sites only for backpacker jobs for example:
Many, especially smaller farms do not advertise open positions in job search sites. They either receive enough applications anyway or have some other means to find employees.
When we were looking for farm work we spent a lot of time just googling farms and sending e-mails to potential ones. Quite many even had some forms or directions how to apply for job. Although, I have to say it is not always easy to find farms’ websites because they: a) don’t exist or b) are so hidden that you have to use some serious detective skills to find them. Still, there is a lot of ‘hidden’ farm positions you just have to put some effort in finding them.
Some town’s information centers do have information or leaflets about seasonal work nearby, especially if there is a lot of farms around.
Probably the easiest way to get a farm job, but money wise maybe not the best one. I don’t have personal experience of working hostels, but I have heard good and bad stories about them. I have heard that many of these charge you quite a lot for accommodation and it is not guaranteed that you get a job. It is maybe a good idea to ask some references if you are planning to go in one.
Generally Australians are really helpful so if you have any connections, try to ask if anyone knows anything about potential farms. My friends learned about one farm where I worked by asking from a guy who sold coffee at a rest area that does he know any farms around. The guy knew this farm which happened to be hiring at that moment so they got the job. Moral of the story: it never hurts to ask.
Go ask from the farms
I haven’t tried this but some people just go ask straight from the farms that do they need employees. Especially many small farms you cannot even find online, so going out in the field is the only way to reach these.
TIP 4: If you happen to come a cross a Yellow Pages book (seriously, people still use that in here instead of Google), there is usually some “farms” section where you can find contact details.
TIP 5: Because competition is hard you will have better chances of getting work if you are not there where everybody else is. This unfortunately is there where the weather is nicest: summer in south and winter in north.
Usually if people want to pick some particular fruits they go into a place where they know season is coming. If you are planning to do this go early, a bit before the season starts. You have better chances of getting a job when you are already there available to start when needed.
Writing an application
Farm work isn’t really rocket science, but because competition of the places is really tense you have to write a proper application!
Do not write an application that just says “I need money and visa days please hire me”. That that kind of application doesn’t really help you to stand out from hundreds of other applications that farms receive. Farms do know that these are the main reasons why backpackers apply for a farm job, but you have to give some reasons why you are the person they should hire.
Applying for a farm job is like applying for any other job, except your application doesn’t have to be very formal. The most important thing is to convince the farm why they should hire you and not someone else. Read the job ad and if there is any specific requirements that the farm wishes you to have, try to include those in your application. Some qualities that are generally good for farm work are at least:
- hard-working – days can be long and who would benefit from a lazy worker.
- flexible – farm work is usually really dependent on external factors (like weather conditions or amount of orders) so it requires some flexibility.
- fit – farm work can be physically hard so it really helps if you are in good condition.
The application doesn’t have to be too complicated, usually it’s enough to include:
- some information about yourself and what you have done previously
- why you would like to work for this farm and
- some reasons why the farm should hire you.
If you don’t hear back from your application and really want to work for that farm, call after it. It makes an impression that you are serious and generally in Australia calling to places is the way things work.
Hourly Paid vs. Piece Rate
Before doing any farm work we had only heard bad stories about piece rate work, so we decided to apply only for hourly paid jobs. Our first farm job was hourly paid, but we didn’t like the farm so we left. Later we got a job from a farm that was piece rate and paid 24$/h for an average picker, which was the minimum wage for piece rate work (21,61$/h for hourly paid on that time).
We ended up making more money with piece rate than with hourly paid work and we also liked the piece rate work much more. I guess biggest mistake people do with the piece rate work is that they leave too early. It does take some time before you learn the technique and start earning. For me it took about a week to learn the technique properly and two weeks before I started making good money.
I would say it is really dependent on people do they like to do piece rate or hourly paid work. Some people didn’t like to do piece rate work at all, because it is a bit competitive. Also, if you are slow or just lazy you don’t really earn much.
Personally, I find the competition and the piece rate pay system motivating. Also, I found piece rate work more relaxed. Nobody’s there looking over your shoulder and complaining if you are not working fast enough. Also you can keep your breaks whenever you want – it is just all out of your pocket if you are not working. I did also some hourly paid work on the farms (packing and pruning) but I just found it super boring. But again, it is totally dependent on people which one they prefer. If possible, I think best would be to try both and see which one you like more.
If you have some other tips about farm work in Australia, please share in the comment box. 🙂