WORKING IN FARMS IN AUSTRALIA: ADVICE AND EXPERIENCE. ULTIMATE GUIDE TO RENEW YOUR VISA
If your goal is to work on farms in Australia, the first step to take is to read this article and download our complete guide to working on farms with hundreds of farmer contacts across the country.
Click on the image or on the direct link to download the guide!
What will you find in this article? Here is a handy menu that you can use for faster reading
- Working on farms in Australia: My experience on Australian farms
- What are farms? Why do I have to work on farms?
- How to find work on Australian farms
- What is the Harvest Trail?
- Find work through working hostel
- Finding work on a farm through contractors?
- Finding work on a farm through “contractors”?
- How do you count the 88 days?
- Our recommendations
- Farm-themed FAQs
What are farms?
Why do I have to work on farms in Australia?
Working on farms in Australia means carrying out, and certifying, at least 88 days of work in a regional area in the farming sector (farms or work with livestock), fishing (and similar) or construction in order to apply for the second year of a Working Holiday Visa, a visa that allows you to work or travel in Australia for a period of 12-24 months (one year for each visa).
YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN: what is the Working Holiday Visa
Working on farms in Australia:
Danila’s experience on Australian farms in 2017
Describing the five months it took to finish my 88 days requires more than a paragraph, but I’ll try to be concise.
- We left Fremantle in mid-May heading north, raving something like “we’ll get to Darwin”; we arrived in Carnarvon and found work after a couple of days, we stayed there until the 10th of July working six to seven days a week.
Days taken home: 36 of 88. They say that a good start is half done!
Works carried out in the first month and a half: beans picker and packer, leaf plucker and vine pruner. Translated: we have harvested and packed green beans, we have cleared an entire vineyard of leaves in preparation for pruning and we have pruned an infinite number of vines.
The worst job: picking green beans for $12 for every 8kg of prime produce and $5 for 8kg of second-grade green beans. A remittance on all fronts. You don’t make money, you don’t earn enough to validate a day and you break your back. We quit after two days, of course.
The pruning of the vines was paid per plant (between 3 and 3.50$ each, to split in two) to complete cutting, pulling and wrapping (cutting the branches, removing them from the vineyard and tying the branches for the new harvest).
The cleaning of the field, on the other hand, was paid per hour, minimum wage of $20 per hour.
How did I find these jobs on Australian farms?
- Leaf plucker: knocking door to door at all – and I mean all – the farms in Carnarvon
- Bean picker/packer: announcement on the Community Board of the Woolworths of Carnarvon (nerve center of the city activities!!!!!)
- Pruning: as we went from farm to farm we met a Contractor – the real ones who pay taxes! – by pure chance and after pestering him with calls and messages for a week we started working for him the day after we finished leaf plucking.
Considerations: being paid “per piece” is not convenient and we, already knew it before starting, but if there’s nothing else and the alternative is to stay at home, it’s perfectly fine.
Then suddenly we found ourselves on unpaid holidays for at least three weeks (after pruning we would have had to wait for the vines to grow before moving on to the lift).
Sudden and almost senseless program changes and then a new departure.
- We left for Donnybrook – or rather Kirup – where we started working after one day (*) as a grape pruner. Bad job, terrible pay, worse climate than the two points previously mentioned.
Days taken home: 38 of 88, the stalemate begins. The desire to abandon everything is felt.
Work carried out: pruning wine vines in the pouring rain, paid per plant (about 50 cents for two).
(In Australia it’s not always hot! It felt like going back to Perugia and I can’t imagine what it was like in that period in Albany, almost 500km further south!!!)
An unprecedented nightmare.
However, the first two days were paid by the hour so not all evils come to harm, at least those two miserable days are valid for the visa.
* How did we find work in one day?
We actually found the job directly from Carnarvon by contacting a Donnybrook “contractor”. Later I’ll explain what quoted contractors are :D, quotation marks make the difference.
I waited for a week in-between anxieties and desperation. Then, on July 24th – thanks to another “contractor” – I started working in the apple shed where I stayed until October 19th.
Days taken home: 88 and more.
One month after the expiry of the visa, with millions of wrapped apples and anxiety consuming me while waiting for the second WHV, my days are finally over!
Jobs Performed: Apples sorting and packing for $23 an hour.
I assure you that as much as it may seem an easy job, it’s far from it!
I didn’t have the slightest idea of the rigorous manual selection of each single fruit before it arrives on the shelves of department stores.
How much did I earn working on farms?
Ultimately, I completed my 88 days of farm in just under five months, I earned enough (just over 12,000 dollars which could easily have been 20,000 if I had immediately found the job I have today 26 October) but still less than what I earned in Fremantle ($13,000 in three months).
However I have saved more than I have ever saved in my whole life because when living out of the world spending money is impossible.
The most beautiful thing, however, is that I lived a period of my life so bucolically perfect that I will always remember with a smile, and perhaps even a little melancholy, beyond all the difficulties encountered and despite all the times I wanted to quit.
SO Dear Backpacker, Yes, WORK IN FARMS IN AUSTRALIA.
TRY, FIGHT, TEST YOURSELF, GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY AND WIN.
IT’S WORTH IT.
AND WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED YOU WILL FEEL A FOOL FOR THINKING ABOUT GIVING UP HALFWAY!
It may interest you: all the possible ways to renew your WHV
How to find work on farms?
How do I find farm work in Australia?
The best alternative for you is to rely on the Atlas Migration guide, 20 pages full of information and contacts to find work in the four corners of the country.
Download the guide by clicking the photo below!
To find out about all the other possible ways to find work on a farm in Australia, read on!
READ THE HARVEST TRAIL!
What is the Harvest Trail?
The Harvest Trail shows for each Australian state, for each geographical area, village or county all the seasonalities of all the products grown in those areas.
In practice, the HT tells you in which period you could find/should look for work in an “x” place based on the seasonality of a product in that area.
(here you can download the complete guide and get more information about it)
There are also official switchboards which you can contact to find work on the farm. In the case of vacant positions, these provide direct contact with the farmer who will then decide whether to hire you or not.
ASSETS of the Harvest Trail: it is a holy hand for figuring out where to go to look for work.
For example, don’t go to a place that mainly produces strawberries if you don’t want to work with this fruit (notoriously bad wages per basket and, to make matters worse, you have to be hunched over on the ground for 8-10 hours a day).
DEFECTS of the Harvest Trail: the HT is an indicative guide in the sense that it cannot take into account the possible delay of the summer season or the anticipation of the rainy season.
So, as an example, the HT stated that there is picking and packing of bananas in Carnarvon 12 months of the year. During the time we lived and worked in Carnarvon (late May-mid July) there was very, very little work with that fruit due to the ‘late season’. Therefore, before deciding to take and leave for any place chosen for pure personal pleasure, if you want/have to work in the farms, check that there are actually farms or activities that allow you to mark the days in that place.
Find work on farms through working hostels
In every city, town, village where there are at least 5 farms, there is also a working hostel ready to sort and direct all the backpackers who have arrived there.
How does the Working Hostel work?
You, backpackers looking for days, can go to the nearest working hostel.
They invite you to join them as soon as possible, there always is a lot of work according to them.
How does it work?
You sleep in the hostel paying the bed per week (amounts that vary according to where you are and the services offered) and a 1-3 week deposit in advance.
The hostel takes care of putting you in contact with the farms that need workers (mostly casual).
You understand yourself that it is advantageous for the hostel to have an extra guest, it is not in their primary interests to help you finish the days as soon as possible; so it happens that there are hostels full and that the work is not enough for everyone.
What happens in these cases?
A few days of work each (2-3-4) hoping for the next week to be better.
Little money, high expenses and extreme slowness to finish the days.
In other situations, work commissions are guaranteed for a certain number of weeks – always favourable weather permitting – but no certainty for the period following that job; however, remember, you have to secure the bed at long notice, so you can’t think of leaving as soon as they stop paying you (or rather you can do it but you will lose the deposit!).
A rarer but always possible situation is that you are commissioned for three months straight with the same employer, run out of days and have no problems.
Or it also happens that you find a serious working hostel that takes care of a number of requests able to satisfy and helps you finish your days quickly (I haven’t had any experience with the working hostel because I already understood during the telephone conversation that it wasn’t worth it) .
To these listed above should be added the problems related to the actual stay in a hostel but, to avoid digressing, we will only talk about work also because either you are a hostel type or you are not.
And you know which of the two categories you belong to.
Remember that three months is a long time and often becomes four, five or six.
Finally, when you work through a working hostel your payslip can be issued by both the farm and the hostel – in case we have some sort of contracting company.
Finding work on farms through contractors
Contractors are intermediaries between farmers and workers.
They conclude contracts with the farmers, who commission a given job, for a given period, for a given sum of money.
The contractor, then, finds the workers and decides on the pay.
[The farmer pays the contractor who then pays you].
Generally, contractors pay piece per rate, that is the amount of work done: it can be a total per bin, bucket, plant or kg of harvested product.
Sometimes, it happens to be paid per hour but only if the contractor understands that he could lose with the pay per piece.
Translated: you will hardly make “a lot of money”.
However, if you put in the effort to work long hours a day, you’ll be able to make enough $ to mark a day (keep reading to find out what it is about).
When you work with the contractor, it’s him, or rather his company, that issues your payslip.
Finding work on the farm through the “contractors”
Perhaps the least ethical.
Perhaps even the least legal, if we want to be fiscal.
In fact, however, it is the solution that makes everyone win (even us poor backpackers).
The “contractors” – from my experience – are middle-aged ladies who rent out beds or, in very lucky cases, the room – and never as in this case does the proverb “first come first served” fits perfectly!
The rate varies between $140 and $170 per week (reference South Western Australia area in 2017) for generally well-kept accommodation, with many, many rules and several roommates.
It is one of the few situations that also guarantees the internet, a complete stranger when we talk about rural areas.
The home owner (contractor) lives with the backpackers or not far away and home inspections are frequent (!!!).
Ergo: the “contractor” before recommending you to someone makes sure that you are a good one.
In this case the pay is almost always hourly! Even if casual work has four-digit weekly wages and the days are marked with certainty.
In our case, we had problems with the contractor’s house only for lack of a double room, we chose to leave after a month spent sharing a single bed in a double room which, in reality, we divided into four.
For the rest, although I don’t like to follow other people’s rules in my house and although the price is a little higher than the market price, I must say that it is the only way to have a truly clean and house (and especially with wifi!)
Why did I speak of little legality?
Simple, the “contractors” rent you the room strictly off the books.
Find work on farm through the INTERNET
Every day dozens and dozens of job advertisements on farms are published on the internet; many also find it this way! Maybe you can do it too.
- Gumtree: is the reference site for any type of online research.
Jobs, technology, cars, homes and much more, gumtree is one of the most used portals by Australians.
What do you have to do?
- Consult the Harvest Trail (see above: what is the Harvest Trail)
- Select the areas suitable for the period in which you want/can do farms
- Look for work on gumtree in the areas you have identified (there is a special category for harvesting-farming work)
A good tactic could be to publish a job search announcement and then hope to be contacted directly by potential interested parties.
TIP: Before accepting any job make sure that company is eligible to mark days (more on that later though, in short: make sure the ABN of the company you will be working for is registered in a city whose POST CODE is among those on the government list).
- Facebook: an excellent source of news for job, housing or car research is Facebook or rather the groups of the various local communities (especially in remote areas where the communities are decidedly smaller and more cohesive).
They are almost always closed pages or groups for which it is necessary to request access. Explaining that you are a backpacker looking for work and accommodation you will be welcome.
Finding work on the farm thanks to employment agencies
Also in this case, the agency is an intermediary between workers and farmers.
Agencies generally handle quite large workflows and even larger quantities of backpackers.
Wages can also be hourly but are more often piece per rate.
How to find work on Australian farms? ASK TO ALL THE FARMS
After having pestered every farmer, manager or worker on Carnarvon’s farms or sheds, I can tell you that stalking-based farm job hunting is not very effective.
Ok, I got a week’s job with this method and by pure chance, I met the guy who hired me for the next period. All this only because Carnarvon is a very small reality and the farms – also small, especially when compared to those of the South West or Queensland – are “all close”.
Why is moving from farm to farm not very effective?
- The most obvious answer is that the “farmer cannot wait for you”, although it is possible to be in the right place at the right time, it is easier for the farmer to organise himself in time rather than waiting for you to go to him to beg for your days
- Australia is BIG! This means that looking for a job moving from country to country can mean traveling hundreds or even thousands of kilometres (which translates into a lot of time and a lot of money in petrol)
However, if you have chosen to farm while traveling, you can also choose this route and hope for luck – our guide can certainly help you with this!
Well, now that we understand how to look for a job on a farm in Australia, let’s try to understand how to ensure that this job takes us to the second visa.
How do you count the 88 days to renew your visa?
How much do I have to earn to score a day?
Until a few years ago, to renew your working holiday visa it was sufficient to carry out volunteering, wwoofing or similar activities; in practice you worked 4 hours a day in exchange for room and board and even without receiving wages you could renew your visa.
Today the situation is totally different.
How do I count a day?
- In case you are paid per hour (hourly rate) to score a day you must work at least 6 hours a day and earn at least $125 (minimum wage of at least $17.7 net)
- In case you are paid piece per rate to score a day you must earn at least $100
In any case, I leave you the official page of the Australian government https://www.border.gov.au with a little patience you will find all the answers to your questions.
FAQ: THE QUESTIONS THAT ARE ASKED MOST OFTEN ON FARM
- Do I need a car to work on farms in Australia?
Yes and no.
You definitely need a car or a friend with a car to reach the farms.
However, in the absence of a vehicle, you can travel by public transport (bus) and once you arrive at the farm, find a solution (sometimes working hostels or contractors organise minibuses that shuttle to and from the farm, obviously for a fee).
However, not having a car in a remote place can mean not even being free to go shopping.
Do as you prefer 🙂 but from my experience having a car is essential.
- Can I work part time on the farm?
Yes and no.
You can do it but the 88 days become 176 or more.
- Can I work in Hospitality to make farms?
Yes, now it is possible.
- In this article dedicated to the WHV, we explain all the ways in which it is possible to renew it and we give you a guide with hundreds of hospitality business contacts where you can renew your visa.
- Can I farm in the city?
If you are very lucky you can find farms 1-2 hours away from the nearest metropolis (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide).
- Can I sleep on the farm?
It depends on the size of the farm, your needs, the farmer and the weather.
The smallest farms have at most – and not always, indeed rarely – a couple of beds.
Other farms simply let you camp on their property for a weekly fee, others have trailers that they rent for anywhere from $50-60 in the off season (when it’s freezing) to $100-150 in the summer (when there’s so much demand).
The larger farms, on the other hand, allow their backpackers to camp on their property with vans, tents or simply sleeping in the car for the entire working period.
[However, returning to the above discussion on how to find work, it is easy to deduce that the chances of ending up sleeping on a farm between contractors, working hostels and various entanglements are remote].
Finally, it all depends on the season: in winter it’s cold in the south! You would hardly want to sleep outside.
In the north, where it is notoriously always hot, the story changes and we too slept in a tent for a few weeks in Carnarvon.
- Do I have to speak English to work on the farm?
You may not even know anything in English, if you can understand what they want you to do, for them is more than enough.
- Do I need to have experience to work on a farm?
Working on a farm is not a matter of experience but of good will!
- What kind of work will I do working on the farm?
The list would be too long but I’ll give you some examples:
- picking fruits and vegetables
- packing fruit and vegetables
- meat slaughter
- meat packing
- milking cows
- reconnaissance of herds
- plant seeds
- pack eggs
- kill chickens
- build fences
- work in fish farm
- Will I meet many scary animals while doing farms?
Here too, it all depends on where you are going to farm: in Queensland, In the Northern Territory or in the Kimberly you could come across giant crocodiles that go in both fresh and salt water! Deadly spiders of all shapes and sizes, huge snakes and the list goes on.
- Do I have to do three consecutive months of work?
You can divide the days as you like within the entire working holiday visa year.
- Do Saturdays and Sundays matter?
If you work yes.
If you don’t work, no.
(In the event that they hire you full-time on a fixed-term basis, the days that you don’t count also count).
- How long does it take to finish farms?
If you manage to work for the whole period with the same employer and it’s high season, you can finish them in exactly three months.
If you get lost in the war between working hostels, low season, agencies and any other, you could even spend seven (more than half of the first visa!).
TIPS TO FINISH THE FARM
THOUGHTS WHICH COULD BE USEFUL
- Living ISOLATED in Australia means being isolated for real, never underestimate the choice of where you will live!
- Not all Australian cities are on the sea, quite the contrary
- In the southern part of Australia winter exists and it is cold even as in Italy
- When you work on the farm and come home in the evening you will close your eyes and you will see thousands of apples, flowers, vines, bananas, green beans or any other product of the moment on your farm
- We are all adventurous in theory, a little less in practice. How many of you have thought of sleeping in a tent for the three months of farm to be able to save as much as possible? How many of you have actually succeeded? We tried Carnarvon but after three weeks we gave up on the freezing night and pouring rain and found ourselves in a shared house.
- Stock up on food especially if you have special needs because you could live in a village without a supermarket!!
- Stock up on things to do in your spare time
- Make a good phone plan, with lots of internet and with a good telephone operator
- Make sure your car is capable of traveling long distances (in case you are embarking on a long journey to the farms).
- Don’t be put down by those who have run out of farms and say there are no jobs. There is as there was when someone said the same to them. Enthusiasm high and keep searching.
- Australia needs backpackers as much as backpackers need Australia
- For the public, being in Australia with WHV is equivalent to being a backpacker! End of story. It doesn’t matter whether you have a backpack or not, whether you are traveling or staying in one city for a year. You are a backpacker here and you are taxed with the special backpacker tax!
I have said a lot in this article, I certainly forgot something but I hope I have given you at least a little help to start this long research.
For any question you can write me by email email@example.com, on Instagram, Facebook or in a comment.