Trying to find a good Australian farm job can be a stressful task. Horror stories tend to circulate in hostels, leaving you with a sense of despair and fear. But do not worry! This article is going to put your mind at ease and give you all the tools you need to find farm work that is right for you.
If you are on the working holiday visas 417 and 462, then in order to get another year you will need to do regional work.
On your first working holiday visa to qualify for a second you will need to do 3 months, farm work. If you are on your second working holiday visa and wish to qualify for a third year, you will need to do 6 months’ farm work.
If you are a UK citizen from 1st July 2024 you will NOT have to meet this requirement when applying for your second or third visa.
Australian farm work can be an amazing environment to meet new people, gain a new skill, do something outside your comfort zone and get a new perspective.
Is it easy to find farm work in Australia?
Australia is a big place and finding farm work is easy. But finding legitimate farms that are fair to employees, that don’t take advantage of backpackers and that qualify for the additional years takes a little more work.
I have created this article to help travellers not fall victim to the farmers who say they fall under the regional work category and then 3 months later tell you they never said that.
Please get correspondence in writing to ensure you have evidence of foul play.
I will cover all the tips you need to know to find a good Australian farm job. I will give you informational resources that will help you on your journey. And I will share my personal experience and what I wish I knew back in 2019.
Types of Farm work in Australia
There are a variety of approved industries that count towards your regional work.
- Fruit picking and packing (most popular form of farm work)
- Tourism and Hospitality (Northern Australia, top of Queensland and remote areas)
- Plant and animal cultivation in regional Australia
- Fishing and pearling in regional Australia
- Tree farming and felling in regional Australia
- Mining in regional Australia
- Construction in regional Australia
- Bushfire recovery work
The most common farm work jobs are fruit picking and hospitality. These are the main areas I would encourage you to focus on, as they are the easiest jobs to get.
How much do Australian farm workers get paid?
If you are doing the traditional farm work, then there are 2 different pay brackets:
Hourly Pay – This is obviously paid hourly and is usually for the packing, cherry picking (machine not fruit), farm hand jobs. But some farms will also give pickers an hourly rate, which is a really good sign.
Piece Rate – This is determined by how much you pick. Depending on the fruit will depend on the depth of the bucket you have to fill. For apples, I was filling a hot tub-sized container for $45 and pruning trees for $1 – $4 per tree. This style of pay can be brutal.
The average pay for farm work in Australia is:
$21 – $30 per hour. I would strive to get $25 and above.
If you are working in hospitality, your pay will be much nicer, with different rates on weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays. A typical pay packet would be:
$28 – Weekdays
$34 – Saturdays
$39 – Sundays
With double pay on bank holidays.
A good tip to note is that fruit picking is normally consistent where you will be guaranteed hours. Whereas, in hospitality work you are not guaranteed 37.5 hours, which is what you need to count towards your 88 days.
Research your fruit seasons
A really important part of your research should be the fruit seasons. When I did my farm work in May 2019, by June I was told the picking season was over. Luckily, they had pruning trees to do in the winter but I never even considered that I could have had no work.
As there are so many different jobs within each state, I have linked the 2023 fruit picking season calendar here. The dark pink is high demand for workers and the light pink is average demand.
If you want to make the most out of the summer season, then look into farm jobs that happen in the cooler months. Working during the winter is much easier than dealing with the Australian sun beating down on you.
Start looking and applying early
Some of the best farms in Australia have waiting lists as they are in high demand. These positions usually come with pay, accommodation included and sometimes even meals.
If you are looking for a cattle ranch job, they are few and far between, so you want to stand out from the crowd with a good cover letter and express your interest early.
There is no harm in expressing interest and calling the farms. Also speaking to a member of the crew will help them remember you later down the line.
Some farms also do not advertise online and encourage people to call and interact with them to see if you are the right fit.
Please do not leave your farm work to the last few months of your visa! I personally encourage you to get your farm work out of the way within the first 6 months. That way, if there are any problems, you have time to find a new farm and make a new plan.
Get all the information first
To find a good Australian farm job it is important to call different farms ahead of time. Compile a checklist with a bunch of questions to ask and then compare each farm to see which is the most beneficial for you.
Some example questions I would ask are:
- Are you hiring at the moment/when does your hiring process start?
- Is there a waiting list? (if they aren’t hiring straight away)
- Is there accommodation on the farm and is it included? If not, what is the price for the accomodation? Is the payment taken out of my pay packet or do I pay this separately?
- What style of room is it? Will I be in a private room or is it a shared dorm and how many people are in a room?
- What are the average hours?
- Is the pay by piece rate or hourly?
- How far away is the farm from a supermarket? Is transport provided into town or do I need my own vehicle?
- How do I receive my pay slips? (you need this as proof when applying for your next visa)
- How do I get there from public transport?
How to prove 88 days of Australian farm work
The Australian Government website states:
To be eligible for a second WHM visa, you must have carried out at least 3 months of specified work. ‘3 months’ is taken to mean a period equivalent to the 3 shortest ‘calendar’ months of the year, that is, a minimum period of 88 calendar days, including weekends or equivalent rest days during your period of employment.
To be eligible for a third WHM visa, you must have carried out at least 6 months of specified work on or after 1 July 2019. ‘6 months’ is taken to mean a period equivalent to the 6 shortest ‘calendar’ months of the year, that is, a minimum period of 179 calendar days, including weekends or equivalent rest days during your period of employment.
You will need to upload your job contract and payslips from each farm you worked at when applying for your next visa. I was also told to keep the documents I had with my rent payments on too. I think the more information you have to prove you were on the farm the more help it will be further down the road.
How to find Australian farm work jobs
Workforce Australia is a government-run website that uploads different farms looking for workers all over the country. They tell you how long they need workers from, the type of job, the pay rate and the hours you will be working.
There is always a section on their website with information about Australian farm work for foreigners.
I would still check the Australian Gov website to check that the farm job falls into the postcodes that count towards the visa extensions.
The backpacker board is a great website to remember not only for farm opportunities but for all sorts of other jobs around Australia. They may not always have the best jobs, but they are a site that has backpackers’ needs in mind, so it is worth checking out.
Job websites also have farm opportunities. Usually the adverts are a lot more descriptive and will give you the key information you need to see if the job is right for you.
I know a lot of people that have used Gumtree and had positive results with the website. But I would still be a little cautious as to how legit the adverts are, as anyone can post on there.
Facebook is an amazing tool that sometimes we forget to appreciate. There are loads of different groups you can become a part of. I would make a post with a picture of yourself saying what you want and you will be surprised at what comes up for you.
There are loads of opportunities being posted on those groups daily.
If you have any friends that have already experienced farm life, ask them where they went, how it was and if they recommend the farm. I got my farm job because I referenced my friend and, as she was a hard worker, they gave me a job instantly.
A friend’s knowledge can help you clarify that it is a legitimate job that will pay you and treat you fairly.
A working hostel is essentially a backpacker hostel that is located near a farm. The hostel typically houses the farm employees and sometimes offers transportation to and from.
Working hostels will also help you find farm work within the area.
As I have said many times, hostels are a great way of meeting people. When you live in such close proximity to each other, you become a little family and it really boosts morale on days when you aren’t feeling great.
Check out my blog post about what to know before staying in hostels.
Australian Farm Workwear
Before heading to the farm, I suggest getting a few items.
- A hat
- Gloves (you may get a dodgy tan line but it’s worth it)
- Clothes you don’t mind getting dirty
- Comfortable shoes
- A hot water bottle (for winter)
- Headphones (some jobs wont let you wear them for safety reasons)
- A speaker (some picking jobs will let you play music)
My experience at Rizzatos & Sons Farm
I chose this apple farm because my friend had recommended the place. Her exact words were “they are stern but fair”. While this statement did not exactly excite me, I knew it was a legitimate business that paid you correctly and gave you the correct paperwork for your second year visa.
I was an Apple picker and pruner. Which meant I was on piece rate. You get assigned a partner who has applied for the role at the same time and one is the tractor driver and the other puts the crates on the back. If you are the only one that applied at the time, then you do this solo.
The work is easy but hard at the same time. You have to motivate yourself to go faster to make more money, but as I am a tiny human I could never do more than 2 crates. There are 3 bins on the back of the tractor. With your partner, you do 1 each and then the middle together. Once these 3 are done, you go get more crates.
I recommend being a picker over a packer! Packers get an hourly rate and make more money, but they are watched constantly and usually shouted at. I heard so many horror stories and had 2 housemates who worked in the packing shed leave because of the working conditions.
Whereas when you are in the orchards, you are visited by Daniel (one of the sons) and Little Deano (Big Boss Man Deano is frightening!). In the morning around 10.30am and in the afternoon around 3pm, and they are both really nice people.
If Daniel and Little Deano can see you are working hard and trying your best, they are happy with you. I hardly made any money when I was pruning the trees and was really slow, but they both said I was one of the best (because I took so bloody long on each tree and did it properly, unlike other people).
I lived in a house with four girls, and we had three other girls come and go. There were two bedrooms, one with three beds and one with four beds. I had the room mostly to myself, as I had the people that kept leaving. We shared a kitchen, bathroom, and living room. The house itself was freezing.
There was a cupboard with lots of old clothes from previous tenants, so we made the most of that!
You were not allowed guests at the house, even though they worked at the farm. You couldn’t mingle, which was actually so sad. If you were caught in someone else’s house, you could get fired or thrown out.
A week before our departure date, one of the girls invited another girl over, got caught, and was asked to move out. Luckily, she wasn’t fired.
Another thing to note about this farm is that it is in Pozieres, which is in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town is Stanthorpe, which is 20 minutes drive away. As no one in the house had a car, we had to walk to the orchards, which were scattered all over the place, and at one point we had to walk an hour to get there and back.
This also meant that we had to get a taxi to go grocery shopping, which was $70 each way! As you can imagine, we stocked up on food.
Overall, the experience was good. But if I had my time again, I would shop around and see what other farms had to offer.
In summary, while this may not end up being your favourite job, it will help you score another working holiday visa. Australian farm jobs can be a really fun and rewarding experience. Just allow yourself plenty of time to find the right one for you.
As Always, Happy Exploring!