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Fruit Picking & Seasonal Work

By Sara Templeton

Typical summer scenario: "I'm all outta cash... Anyone know where the closest harvest is?"

Fruit picking is the backpackers lifesaver, not just in Australia, but throughout Europe and the Americas.

But to say it's a job only taken up by backpackers and students would be like saying that Mount Everest is a small hill in the South of France.

In Australia, the fruit/produce picking season, also known as harvest, peaks during summer. Between the months of December and May, the majority of fruit across Australia, such as grapes, stone fruit (plums, peaches, apricots) and mangoes come into season, but there are many expectations to this rule.

Careers In Fruit Picking

Careers In Fruit Picking

For instance, in different states and territories, the weather patterns and temperatures can change year in and year out, so the picking season can often differ. In Western Australia, for example, they get more days of sunshine on average than any other state.

As a result, regions such as Manjimup, Pemberton, and Bunbury in Western Australia hold their apple harvest between March and May.

Furthermore, it's not just fresh fruit that is gathered annually, but also seafood - in particular crayfish, prawns, rock lobsters.

In general, becoming a fruit picker requires no experience and most farms and orchards are eager to get more hands working, but those who have entertained the idea of harvesting fruit are quick to talk about the hard labour.

Most fruit pickers start early in the morning and finish before the brunt of the summer sunshine hits later on in the afternoon, though this will of course vary from one orchard to the next.

Therefore, being physically fit and having good stamina helps, and here are some other essentials:

Sunglasses - it gets quite bright

Gloves - protection from spikes, thorns, spiders and pesticides

Sunscreen - protection from Sol

Hat - makes you look cool

Hardy boots/shoes - protection from snakes, pesticides and bullants

Big drink container - it's thirsty work

Payment depends on a number of issues, such as how good the harvest is, and what the particular fruit or produce is.

Some land owners prefer to pay pickers by the hour (anything above $10 an hour is good), such as vineyards and grape growers, because they want the fruit to remain in pristine condition. Bruising is not an option. And until robots are developed that can climb trees and pick fruit without bruising them (quite hard when your hands are made of titanium alloys...), there'll always be work available for those who want it.

Most places, however, pay per bucket, bin or box filled rather than by the hour. So - the harder you work, the bigger the rewards. Another bonus in becoming a fruit picker are all the interesting people you'll meet on your travels. For the most part, meals and accommodation are also supplied.

Listed below is rough guide as to the various time-frames of the many harvests around Australia:

New South Wales

Stone Fruit

Young, Batlow, Tumut

Dec-Mar

Grapes

Griffith, Leeton

Feb-March

Pears

Orange

May-June

Grapes

Hunter Valley

June-Aug

Prunes

Young

July-Sept

Apples

Orange

July-Sept

Grapes

Tumburumba

July-Sept

Apples

Batlow, Orange

July-Sept

Cotton

Narrabri, Mooree

July-Sept

Aspargus

Gundagi, Cowra

July-Sept

Oranges

Griffith, Leeton

July-Oct

Cherries

Young, Orange

Aug-Sept

Onions

Griffith

Aug-Sept

Stone Fruit

Leeton

Aug-Sept

Blue Berries

Griffith

Aug-Sept

Victoria

Pears

Ardmona, Shepparton, Tatura, Cobram, Invergordon, Kyabram

Jan - April

Peaches

Ardmona, Shepparton, Tatura, Cobram, Invergordon, Kyabram

Jan- April

Apples

Ardmona, Shepparton, Tatura, Cobram, Invergordon, Kyabram

Jan- April

Tomatoes

Ardmona, Shepparton, Tatura, Kyabrani, Echuca, Rochester, Elmore

Jan- April

Tobacco

Ovens, King &kiewa valleys

Jan- April

Grapes

lake Boga, Nvah West, Swan Hill, Robinvale, Sunraysia Area, Ovens, King And Kiewa Valleys

Feb-Mar

Apples

Buckland Valley, Stanley, Wandilong, Red Hill, Main Range

Mar- Apr

Asparagus

Dalmore

Sept- Nov

Strawberries

Silvan

Oct- Dec

Cherries

Wandin, Silvan, Boweya, Glenrowan, Wangandary

Nov- Feb

Tomatoe Weeding

Echuca, Rochester

Nov- Dec

Queensland

Bananas

Tully

All Year

Sugar

Tully

All Year

Pears

Stanthorpe, Warwick

Feb-Mar

Apples

Stanthorpe, Warwick

Feb-Mar

Melon

St George, Warwick

Feb-Apr

Ginger

Sunshine Coast

Feb-Apr

Vegetables

Bundaberg

Mar-Dec

Citrus

Gayandah, Mundubbera

Apr-Jun

Beans

Gympie, Mary Valley

Apr-Nov

Tomatoes

Bowen, Ayr

Apr-Dec

Broccoli

Milmerran, Toowoomba

May-Oct

Sugar

Ayr, Ingham, Innisfail

May-Dec

Ginger

Noosa, Sunshine Coast

Jul-Sept

Onions

Toowoomba, Lockyer Valley

Jul-Dec

Tobacco

Mareeba

Sept-Nov

Plums

Stanthorpe

Nov-Jan

Cotton

Goodiwindi, St George, Warwick, Toowoomba, Millerran, Cecil Plain

Nov-Jan

Peaches

Stanthorpe

Oct-Jan

Vegetables

Stanthorpe

Dec- Mar

Western Australia

Grapes

Margaret River, Mt Barker, Swan Valley

Jan-Mar

Apples

Manjimup, Pemberton Donnybrook, Bunbury

Mar-May

Pears

Manjimup, Pemberton Donnybrook

Mar-May

Rock Lobster

Geraldton

Mar-Jun

Oats, Barley & Wheat

Gnowangerup, Katanning, Wagin, Williams, Narrogin, Northam

Mar-Jun

Prawning

Carnarvon

Mar-Oct

Squash, Zucchini

Kununurra

May-Sept

Melon

Coorow

Apr-Nov

Capsicums & Tomatoes

Carnarvon

Jun-Dec

Bananas

Kununurra

Jul-Aug

Wildflowers

Coorow, Muchea, Geraldton

Jul-Dec

Mangoes

Kununurra

Oct-Jan

Rock Lobster

Freemantle, Kalbarri, Dongara, Geraldton, Mandurah

Nov-Jun

 

At the end of the day, if you like to work outdoors, enjoy keeping fit and want to get paid, then fruit picking may just be the job for you.

The best way to line up work as a fruit picker is to call Employment National on 133 444, or try Anywork-Anywhere.com, who have a well-thought out employment search page: click here to check it out. Also, check out www.pickingjobs.com for a world-wide list of fruit-picking employment opportunities.

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