After completing our 88 days of farm work for our second year visa, we thought we would write about our experience and give any advice that we wish we’d have been given. After applying for a working holiday visa in Australia, you can choose to extend your visa for another whole year. You can also chose to postpone your second year until a later date, as long as you apply and enter before your 31st birthday.
What does the work involve?
In order to get your second year visa you must do specified work that fits the government’s criteria. There is a whole list of jobs that you can do, but the most popular ones are picking/planting/packing fruit and veggies, mining, construction and working with farm animals (sheering/milking/maintaining). A lot of backpackers choose to pick fruit as it’s the easiest work to find, and doesn’t rely on you being in the middle of nowhere, plus in high season you can earn a lot of money if you’re good at it.
We chose to pick fruit after travelling down the east coast for four months, however when we were trying to find a farm it was incredibly difficult to find work that sounded legitimate. At a loss for anything else to do, we booked into a working hostel in Coffs Harbour. A lot of the time hostels will advertise themselves as a ‘working hostel’ and have ties to farmers in the area. We had to pay for a full week of accommodation in order to be able to sign up to a big raspberry farm in the area. We weren’t too bothered that we had to stay there for a week at first, but once we rang the farm a few days later they told us it would take another two weeks to process us!
The hostel didn’t have a very good vibe so we took a leap and moved over to Aussitel Backpackers. It was probably one of the best things we could have done. After a week we were given a phone number for a macadamia farmer who needed ten workers, but only for a month or so. We went to the farm and spent our days picking macadamia nuts off the trees. It was hard work to start with, but became pretty easy to meet minimum wage after the first week. We rang back the raspberry farm to see if our application had been processed, only to be told we needed to ring back in another two weeks, as they weren’t taking anybody else on at that moment in time. We were SO glad we had jumped ship and found the macadamia farm, otherwise we would still be sat twiddling our thumbs at the other hostel.
Thankfully we managed to spend two months at the macadamia farm before the work dried up, which was devastating because we still had four weeks left to complete it. Luckily for us we had carried on ringing the raspberry farm along side and somehow managed to get an induction (after a lot of complaining) the day after we were finished at the other farm. Others weren’t as lucky. Two of our friends had only one week left to complete when we were laid off and they had already booked the rest of their east coast trip, so had to find another farm later in the year (how annoying!).
We started working at the raspberry farm where days would vary in length from four to ten hours. We were not very fast at picking but the runners (people in charge of the team) were really encouraging and nice, which was a pleasant surprise. After spending four weeks picking raspberries, and all I can say is, we didn’t know how easy we had it on the macadamia farm! The day we finished our farm work was the best day of my life, it was such a huge relief.
We have so much advice for anybody wanting to pick fruit after our experience and hearing other peoples’ stories in hostels:
I wont dress it up, I found farm work horrible. I will never do it in my life again unless I have to, but it was a means to an end. It has meant that I now have another whole year to explore Australia, which is priceless to me. One thing that I will say to anybody reading this, debating whether or not to do their farm work would be – decide if you need to. After thinking about it more and more, we realised we might have been better spending a whole year travelling and then coming back on a three month tourist visa. We would have seen everything we wanted to see and would have saved four months of working and not travelling.
However, if you know you need to work when arrive in Australia then it can be a blessing in disguise. You will be able to earn money and work towards your visa at the same time. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to complete the work. We hear far too many people driving from place to place in search of farm work with only three months left on their visa, eek! Your best option is to either come to Australia and work straight away or give yourself 4-5 months of travel and then find work afterwards, that way you have time to relax and travel after working.
Our biggest piece of advice would be to go to a working hostel. You will meet so many great people and it will make the whole experience a whole lot more fun. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the mind numbing work if it wasn’t for the friends I made along the way. it made the weekends exciting and gives you someone to complain about farm work to!
Are you thinking of coming to Australia on a working holiday visa? Have you completed your farm work already? Please leave us a comment below and let’s get a conversation going – we would love to know more about other people’s experiences and share some more of our knowledge!
Happy travels & good luck!
Kay and Dom