30th March – Present
It’s my 10th week out in country Australia in the tiny little town of Stanthorpe and life isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. For those of you that don’t know, in order to obtain a second year working holiday visa you must complete 88 days of regional work, which for me means working day in day out at a local strawberry farm, but first let me take you back to the start…
Having spent a week or so in Cairns calling around farms trying to find both a bed and job I was finally in luck when Summit Backpackers told us to come on down to Stanthorpe. Having done my research and spent ages looking through their website I was feeling very positive; the accommodation looked nice and it was a working hostel meaning they would find you work and also provide transport to and from the farm (essential as I don’t have a car), so you can imagine my surprise when I rock up to a hostel in the middle of nowhere with $300 left in my bank account to find out that 2 weeks ago the hostel changed hands and now they only provided accommodation not jobs or transport…
Well that was it I was straight on the phone to mum telling her to expect me home the following week as it had all gone t*ts up and I was nearly out of money. I went to bed that night thoroughly pissed off and prepared myself for the end of this incredible journey. The next morning we found out that we were able to rent a car from the hostel, not something I really wanted to do but with no other choice I handed over the money and took the keys.
First stop was the harvest office, and guess what? They had no work… Just as we were about to leave (I was seconds away from booking a flight home) the lady said that there were a couple of jobs going at a strawberry farm close by but that we probably wouldn’t make any money as we had never done it before. We jumped at the chance and told her we were up for the challenege. It was confirmed we started at 5.45 the next morning.
The first few weeks were hard, everything hurt and I was pretty slow but I was earning money and that was all that mattered. As the weeks went on the pain eased up and I started to get faster and faster meaning more and more money. Things were finally looking up.
Now don’t get me wrong the hostel we were staying at was lovely and we met a really nice group of people but something was missing. I wasn’t very happy and I felt like I was spending a lot of money on accommodation and the car and not really having any left to save so when we were told we could move into accommodation on the farm I jumped at the chance.
Living on the farm meant I could give up the car and instead of paying $161 a week my rent was now only $90! From the moment I moved in I knew it was the right decision. I now had my own space, kitchen and cosy little living room complete with a wood burner.
Life here is very simple but I love it.
I spend 95% of my time here on the farm either working or relaxing by the fire with a book. Days off are a rarity but it’s not so bad. Once a week we make the 45 minute walk into town to get groceries and remind ourselves that civilisation does still exist and then it’s back to our little bubble that we live in here on the farm. We often all get together at one of the farmhouses for parties and BBQ’s which are always fun and provide a nice distraction from work.
Now not to be biased or anything but I honestly believe that I work at the best farm ever. Having heard so many horror stories about farmers who would scream and shout at you all day, make you work the most ridiculous hours and pay you pennies, my experience couldn’t have been more different. So many people warn you against taking a job that pays you on a piece rate rather than hourly but if you work hard you can earn just as much if not more than an hourly job. The last few weeks we have been planting as well as picking and I have been earning up to $38 an hour!!! If I was being paid hourly I would have got about $22 so yeah piece rate isn’t all that bad! I could literally not ask for a better manager, supervisor or co-workers. No matter how hard the day gets, how crap the weather is or how physically exhausted you feel we laugh through it all. Our team is amazing, we are like a proper little family.
I have racked up about 52 days so far so am well over the half way mark but I still have a little way to go. The season here in Stanthorpe has just about come to an end and we only have about a day left of work before we will all move up to Sunshine Coast to carry on picking at the other farm where the season has just begun. Sadly we will not all be going as some of the team are staying here for winter work and others are moving on but I’m sure that Sunshine will provide just as many good memories as Stanthorpe has.
Next time you hear from me I will have already started working on the other farm, be settled in my new home that I am sharing with 8 others and will have nearly completed all my farm days!