Drunkenpom contains affiliate links. This means if you click on one of the links and make any purchase I will receive a small piece of the pie at no extra cost to you!!.
In this post we are going to talk about the dreaded 88 days of farm work. Lots of backpackers I met despised it, some didn’t mind it and the few strange fruits like myself fell in love with it.
Working the harvest trail throws up a multitude of problems, mainly the fact that it’s seasonal. Australia being the vast, varying geographical behemoth that it is, means it has most of the climates on the planet, which in turn means the capability to grow almost anything. So there’s always work out there you’ve just got to find farm work Australia.
So why do I need to do 88 days of farm work?
In order to be granted your 2nd year visa you must complete a minimum of 88 days of “regional work”, most places outside of the capital cities qualify (more about that below).
Although in this post we are talking about farm work, it doesn’t have to be. It can be working in roadhouses, road works and just about anything else. It just happens that farm work is the most readily available because of the huge labour requirements it takes to get food from field to table.
Also, backpackers who originate from non-English speaking countries have less problems with language barriers.
So you want to become a fruit ninja?
Once you’ve decided that you’re cracking on with your 88 days, where do you start?
Step 1: What jobs are eligible to get signed off?
When it comes to getting you 2nd year visa not all jobs are created equal. Even if you find a job in the correct state/postcode (more below) does not mean your employer can sign of your visa. So make sure you’re looking at the right industries….
The eligible industries are:
- Tree farming
- Plant and animal cultivation
Although the above industries are eligible for your visa extension this does not mean you can do any job in a given industry. As always it’s more involved than that…
For example: One of the eligible industries is plant and animal cultivation but if you get yourself a job as say a ground maintenance person, fair enough you’ll spend your days pruning trees and maybe even growing a few decorative plants.
This is not what they mean. Pruning a 50 hectare vineyard in the Hunter Valley or planting 8 acres of eggplants in the Riverland is what you need to be doing.
Step 2: Figure out where is eligible to get your 88 days signed.
As I stated earlier in this post, MOST areas in Australia are classed as “regional” but by no means is everywhere classed regional. Some Australian states and territories are completely eligible for visa extension.
These states and territories are:
- Norfolk island
- The Northern Territory
- South Australia
While heading for these states and territories is a safe bet, it’s not always feasible. For example if you’re currently in Perth and low on funds then driving/flying to the other side of a continent in the hope of finding work may not be the smartest plan.
So what about the other states?
While you can’t just turn up in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria or Western Australia find any old job in one of the approved industries and expect your employer to sign off your 88 days, it is still more than possible.
All it means is that you have to plan a little bit more before applying for jobs. To make it a little easier the Australian government has listed all of the eligible postcodes on their website which you can find here.
I think it goes without saying that a quick look at the postcodes is a worthwhile time investment before spending hours applying for jobs that won’t help you get your days.
As for the Australian Capital Territory, it’s a complete no go as far as getting your 88 days is concerned.
Finding your perfect nightmare of a job….
Now that you know what kind of jobs to look for and where to find them. Let’s check out some of the ways for you to find that all so illusive farm job.
I say farm job because that’s what I know a little about and finding a farm job in Australia is not as straight forward as finding say, a construction labouring job.
Buy a car:
In all honesty, having your own transport, whether that’s a car, campervan, even a motorbike will help immensely. Unlike finding a job in a city finding a farm job is likely to be off the beaten track and having your own car will give you an edge over everyone who doesn’t.
Here’s a few places to look first:
Harvest Trail website. This is a government run jobs board designed to match farmers with readily available labour I.e you!!
I never had much luck on the website but calling their hotline sometimes threw up a lead that hadn’t made it onto the website as of yet. They are also quite knowledgeable with what is coming up and in what areas.
There is also a Harvest Trail book that tells you what areas have work at any given time, this is not something you can rely on though as I found out on my rookie season. I travelled 1200km to Kununarra on the information in the book saying that there was work harvesting mangoes about to kick off.
I’d hardly stepped foot across the threshold of the job agency doorway when the lady behind the counter said “if your here for fruit picking we’ve got a 300 person backlog” disaster!! When I inquired further it turns out the adverse weather had put the crop back by nearly a month and I was early anyway. Lesson learned.
Gumtree: is also another good one to keep an eye on, lots of backpackers use Gumtree so don’t expect jobs to be around for long. You must be on the ball.
Another thing I found with gumtree is that while most of the ads are genuine there are a few unscrupulous a**holes out there who want to rip you off. Word of warning, any advertisement that asks for money to be sent upfront for accommodation deposit are scams and no matter how desperate you are never hand money over to a potential employer. People leave it too late to “get their days”, grow desperate and fall for these scams.
Again Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find farm work, so get networking people.
The truth about working hostels
Working hostels in my opinion is where it’s at. For less than the price you’d pay to live in a city hostel you can stay at one of these, as everything some are good and some are bad.
What sets a working hostel aside from a usual city hostel is that you pay your rent and the hostel manager finds you work on farms. Most have cars that you can use to get to and from jobs, sometimes there’s a small fee sometimes you even get free fuel, all just depends on the hostel. Rent is normally between $160-220 per week.
A tip for getting work in a working hostel if you haven’t already been allocated a steady job is drag yourself out of you pit early doors every morning, hangover or no hangover, get it done.
There were many times when work was shy that me and a friend Dan would get up 7am, sun shining, sitting on the benches outside overlooking the mighty Murray River and Lesley, the manager would walk out of her office and shout “you two red car, john lorries half an hour”. Might be one days work might be a month you just never knew.
By the way the red car was my favourite, 3 litre V6 Mitsubishi magna ;). Don’t get me wrong though some days the early start would be in vain but on those days me and Dan would be sat Itching for the clock to say 11am so that we could get the goon out!
There was one day I recall I was feeling a bit depressed, missing home, pretty skint, no work on. Just didn’t want to be around people so went for a lie down, as I laid there on my back I couldn’t help but start to read the chicken scratch left behind on the bottom of the slats of the bunk above.
“As long as you’ve got food in your belly and a smile on your face then it’s just another day in paradise”.
Another thing I’ll never forget. Nothing had ever rung so true in the whole of my life. Sunshine, adventure, good people! I had it all!
I climbed out of bed asked Lesley to borrow a car and organized a run to the “bottleo”, within the hour me and 15 people were going at it! The rest of that day is just a haze.
Working hostels have many benefits, the biggest one for me was the community spirit they breed. Being in a city hostel everyone works different places, different times and don’t tend to stick around too long. Here you are normally trying to get you 88 days, staying for at least 3-4 months, in which time you get to know everyone very well.
As cliché as it may sound, soon enough you feel your fellow inhabitants as your family. Sharing the highs, sharing the abundant lows, these people you will NEVER forget. By far the most fun I had in Australia was spent scraping my 88 days together in working hostels and I would recommend them to anyone, especially over staying in the cities hands down!!
Things to watch out for with working hostels:
- Manager telling you they have work when there’s not.
- For some people the facilities are just not up to scratch. (they tend to be a little more run down)
- Work can be sporadic at best.
- pay and conditions can be bad.
A few places I found good farm work.
The Riverland: A beautiful, stunning place in South Australia made up of a few relatively small towns. There’s around 4-5 working hostels in the area. Although I believe the one I stayed in, the mighty Nomads On Murray has since closed down I know there’s an abundance of work in the area.
- Orange picking: from July-September
- Grapes: January-March
- Vine pruning: July-September and November – December
Echuca: This place is I’d say the best I came across for money, there’s only one backpackers hostel with lots of work, if the manager says there’s work there’s work!
Amazing little town also on the Murray river but in Victoria. Just try not to spend all your hard-earned cash in Shamrocks Irish bar 😉 Blag you can drive a tractor as I did, (just a car with 25 gears) get a job planting tomato plants on a massive scale, (if memory serves me correct each patch was 800 acres and millions of plants) and you’re in the money.
- Tractor driving: October-March
- Apple packing shed and fruit thinning: October-December
Maffra: Another nice little town, maybe they just all are!? There is a hostel here but I only stayed in it for 2 days as I found cheaper accommodation. Another friend Scott got me the job here working on a lettuce farm 50 hours per week at $20ph, so again good money.
- Weeding lettuce: all year round but considerable less labour requirement in winter so summer is the time to get down there.
How long does it take to get your 88 days?
More than 88!!!!! For, I’d guess 99% of backpackers this is the case. After meeting literally 100’s of fellow “day chasers” I didn’t meet a single one that was remotely close to getting their days in 88 days.
Personally, it didn’t really matter to me, I loved the farm work and didn’t really count but to hazard a guess I’d have to say closer to 130.
How do they calculate the 88 days?
In a nutshell, if you work full/industry standard weeks then you may not have to actually work 88 days.
For example: If you were to work 40 hours over 5 days, Monday to Friday then you could have Saturday and Sunday off but still be signed off for 7 days.
However, if you go to a working hostel there is a good possibility that you could work for 3 different employers in a single week. In this case, the employers can only sign off the days that you actually worked for them. So yes, best to find a semi-permanent full-time job.
Even if you were to work a 16 hour day, you may think this would entitle you to 2 days signed off. That, my friends would just be too easy and is not the case!
What if you only get short days work?
As I said earlier, a day is calculated on a “industry standard” day. Say you are picking grapefruit but only get 2 hours work before the quota is met (this happened to me) then that probably would not qualify as an “industry standard” day and unfortunately, not qualify.
However, in my experience most farmers would sign it as a full day. Only problem with this is if you get investigated.
Apparently, each year the Australian immigration “investigates” a set amount of second year visa applications. Rumours are, they can check your bank account.
You’re claiming 88 days of graft and there’s only $3000 deposited into your account then you my friend, you’re in the brown stuff!
To wrap part one up.
I hope this post gave you a good insight into farm work Australia. There’s just simply just far too much to shoehorn into one post so I’m going to leave it there for now. Part 2 and maybe even 3 will be arriving soon.
Until then please help me finish a comprehensive list of good jobs to get the farm work done. Your experiences/places/seasons of farm work will help others tremendously so please comment and share.
For more info on farm work click here