One Word… Zucchini

Two weeks have passed and we are finally feeling settled into our new job! I can’t tell you how nice it is to work on a farm which offers such a wide variety of work! At the start of our farming experience, we begun by working on a tomato picking farm – and we really were performing exactly the same thing every single day – with no change at all. You would pick tomatoes from start to finish – and that really would be it right up until you went home; not to mention the minimal amount of pay we were receiving too… So we are seriously grateful to now be working on a farm which involves picking Zucchinis, chillies, jalapeños, artichokes and more – as well washing and packing all of the fruit & veg ready to be sent off to their locations. ALSO, working within a flower nursery; nurturing, growing and preparing all kinds of different flowers. AND LASTLY planting the many different crops ready for growth! (All with a generous pay per hour!)

It really is nice having the days mixed up a little – it is SO much more interesting that way.

Planting crops in the german whip.

 Zucchinis grow seriously fast – there are 60 rows of zucchinis on this farm, and we are able to pick the exact same rows every other day because of the speed in which they grow! Crazy fast! We tend to pick one day, and pack the next – so it works out perfectly. We begin the day between 5.30am and 6 on a picking day and at 6.30am if we are packing!

At the very start of our farming journey, we were told by numerous people in our hostel that the first week or two of farm work is always the worst – and I could not agree more. Although I am loving it now, there have been times where I have been unnecessarily hard on myself, as well as having some ups and downs.

Firstly, as stupid as it sounds, there are some seriously quick zucchini pickers and packers on our farm – and I mean seriously quick… but considering I have walked straight out of an office job – I don’t think that I have done too bad! I just wish that I had actually told myself that a bit more during the first few days. Plus, they have been doing this job a lot longer than I have – so it is absolutely normal to have room for improvement during the first couple of weeks! It sounds crazy, and people must think “Why do you care so much, this isn’t your career?” – and so I have explained why it is important below…

Farm bosses can be quite brutal. I watched one of our colleagues go to work one day, and get told that evening that she wont be returning back there the next day. She had been working there for 2 months too, so it was quite a shock and it was definitely an eye opener for myself. We overheard our boss say that when workers get to their final few weeks of their 88 days, some can become a bit more relaxed and/or lazy at work – and this is something that farmers are quick to pick up on and will act upon it very quickly – so I have definitely noted that for future reference.

Give 100% all of the time and you shouldn’t have too many problems!

Most importantly, it can be quite difficult to find decent farm work – there are thousands of other travellers also wanting to do the exact same as us; so if you don’t give the farmers what they expect – they can quite easily cut you off and replace you the very same day. We’re all here for the same reason, and a lot of people are here to save money as well as extend their VISAs – so if you haven’t saved the amount that you need, and then you are fired from your job; you are in a bit of a bad situation.

Our hostel, and most hostels around us, send only their staying guests out to work, so if you are fired – there is no chance that they will find you work again; so now you need to move hostel and start the whole job searching process all over again.

On top of that, the farm that we are working on is one of the highest paid in the area – so we would be absolutely crazy to mess up this opportunity to save money and make some memories doing something that we probably wont ever experience again!

The farmers only want to employ people who are going to work hard and give all that they can – they don’t expect everyone to be professional Zucchini Zoe’s.

Thankfully after 2 weeks, I have realised this!

“Goals are individual, not universal.
Just because someone can run further, lift heavier,
go longer doesn’t mean your efforts aren’t valid.
Work hard for you and your own goals,
progress will come.”

 What does the picking include?

The zucchinis grow on blocks of 6 rows, and there is a total of 10 blocks on our farm. A row can take up to an hour to pick (2 hours for chillies!), dependant on just how much food is ready! It is obviously our job to look and determine what is and is not ready to be picked.

Our first week of picking zucchinis was during a heatwave – so we were picking on days that reached 38c (100f), thankfully we were usually always finished before it reached the highest temperature – but nonetheless, it was still seriously hot. The zucchinis grow very low on the ground therefore you spend most of your time with your back bent over, so it really does take some getting used to; and by used to, I mean your back will hurt so much that it will eventually become numb to the pain, ha. Sounds like hell, I know… but it’s not that bad.

The plants and leaves in which they grow around also grow relatively large, so you find yourself having to also search for the zucchini making sure that you are not missing any – and to make things just that bit easier, the leaves are sharp & tend to cause quite bad rashes & scratches on your legs; so full length trousers are a must from me!

You start at the top of your row, and work your way down! You twist the zucchini at the stem and voila – pop it into your bucket!

Yes, maybe I would rather be back on Surfers Paradise with a cocktail in my hand… but I am doing this exactly for that reason!

What does the washing and packing include?

Washing and packing a zucchini sounds like a right laugh – and to be honest, it is; but believe me when I say that quite a lot of work goes into the whole process. Considering there are 60 rows of zucchinis, and you fill between 5 and 20 buckets in just one row – depending how busy the crop is – that is a hell of a lot of zucchinis. Especially if we pick the full 60 rows in one morning, which we tend to do.

So to begin, the buckets are collected from the rows and then put into a large cooler – they will then be taken out of the cooler and put into a large food bath in preparation for the wash. There will be one or two people stood either side of the bath picking the zucchinis out one by one, wiping them once over quickly and putting them into a crate next to the bath, ready for the next person to slice off the stem. The cutter will cut the stem to around 1cm and then pass the zucchini into the next crate, where a further two or three people (one being me) will pick the zucchinis up, determine whether they are small, medium or large – and then proceed to pack them individually into the packaging crates – but it is all about image here, so the zucchinis need to be slotted in perfectly tight – stem to stem or vice versa; ensuring that they cannot move around whilst being transported.

Once the crate is at its required count (I usually fit around 48 zucchinis per crate), it will then be passed over to the final packer who will weigh the crate to ensure that it is at the desired weight, remove or add any if necessary, and then pile them onto pallets ready for the forklift to collect the pallet and pass it onto the lorry which arrives the same day! Systematic right?

As you can imagine, zucchinis are all different shapes and sizes, so packing them into the crates perfectly takes a bit of practise. It really is all about image and how the boxes of zucchinis look which determines how much our boss will be paid for them – so the pressure is on for the packer, which is my job! I was a little bit OCD to begin with – as I am with anything that is about ‘image’ – wanting the box to be spot on and perfect in every way, but I realised that this was taking up too much of my time and slowing me down – so I am currently working on finding that balance between having the perfect crate of zucchinis and also having speed. Sounds mad doesn’t it? I never thought that someone who was so worried about their individual eyelashes becoming bare each week now only cares about how nicely their zucchinis are packed… No complaints here!

Have you ever heard the word zucchini so much in your life?

It is honestly the most over used word here in this hostel.

If we’re not talking about our day picking zucchinis, we’re talking about what meal to make using zucchinis – as we obviously bring some home!

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 The zucchini office!

I never want to hear that ‘Z’ word again after our 88 days are complete!

2 weeks down, 11 to go!

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I am your not-so-typical gym going, sun loving, palm tree hugging Brit with a one way flight to Australia!

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