Our Australian Farm Work Experience – Review

So… Finally… Our farm work journey is OVER!

What. An. Experience. 

Did I enjoy it? Most of it.
Would I do it again? Probably not.

Thinking about it, we are seriously grateful for the experience that we were given. We were two of the very lucky few who were able to walk straight into farming work which was paid hourly and not by the bin, with a good amount of hours each day – meaning that we started super early (5/5.30am) but then were home for the afternoon and able to enjoy our evenings! As well as being able to save a nice amount of money per week. If that isn’t enough, we also had a boss who genuinely cared about us and wanted us on the farm not only to help him & his business, but also to help ourselves. From what I’ve seen and been told, few bosses around the Bundaberg/Childers region are like that.

 If for whatever bizarre reason I was ever to return to farm work, I would absolutely only ever work on a small farm that is paid hourly. In fact, I would probably only ever want to go back to working on Sam’s farm. But unfortunately, beggars cant be choosers – and you get what you’re given in that industry. “If you’re not happy – there are plenty of other backpackers who will be more than happy to take your place.” Were the exact words from our boss!

Throughout our 3 months at Childers Ecolodge, we met so many people who were waiting for promised work which just wasn’t coming along. It got to a point where I actually got fed up of introducing myself to people in the hostel because nobody was lasting for more than a week & we were forever seeing new faces. People were left waiting for work to come up – they would get fed up and leave, then new people would arrive in their place – and it was this cycle for most of the 3 months. The reason for the work being so inconsistent for them was because the rain had been torrential – 5 days out of 7 – which meant that many farms could not operate as they usually would. We genuinely watched people work 1 or 2 days out of 3 weeks – and were then unable to pay their rent. Awful right?

We made sure to thank our lucky stars that we were not in that position – and that our boss was happy for us to work in whatever the weather. Which sure was miserable some days, but it also meant that we had consistent work – so we could not complain; as we could have been in a far worse position.

Be aware that the season is a really important factor to consider before starting your farm work. Thankfully, once the weather had improved – people were able to work as normal again! Finally the work was rolling in for most of Ecolodge guests.

From arriving at Ecolodge and starting our job, it all happened so fast; and not everyones experience is always as smooth as ours. But you really do have to take a chance, just like we did – and what a positive experience we were given!

We stayed in the working hostel called Childers Ecolodge. This particular hostel was recommended to us whilst we were staying in Brisbane – we were told that Rhys & Vanessa (the owners) only work with farmers who pay their workers hourly – which is absolutely what we were looking for. There was no way we wanted to be paid by the bin. I have nothing but positive feedback for our hostel. I mean, of course it is always going to take its toll when you are sharing a kitchen and bathroom with others from all over the world – especially when some are incapable of being clean or tidy; but the hostel itself was wonderful.
We were living in a beautiful large tent with a double bed and a patio with tables/chairs just for us – so to be fair, we were lucky. There are many hostels around the area which I can imagine are nothing like Ecolodge. It is in a lovely quiet location, with shops & restaurants being a 10 minute drive away. Ecolodge is perfect for relaxation and is ideal for farm workers who do not want to be staying in a wild party environment! You can of course make your own party if you want to! Just like we did occasionally!

Beautiful Memories!
Some of our best memories yet were made at the Ecolodge!

 Most hostels in the Childers/Bundaberg area provide the surrounding farms with their workers – these are called ‘working hostels’ – and you obviously need to be permanently staying in that hostel throughout your employment with a farm. If you are to get sacked by your farmer, the hostel would then usually refuse to find you anymore work; so you really need to prove yourself in your first week or so of working!

 The work was challenging, uncomfortable and I was forever having to convince myself to believe that I could do it for 13 weeks – and although I was so close to quitting numerous times – I am so glad I stayed strong and went for it. If theres one thing that I hate most; it is feeling dirty & damp. I know there are far worse things to feel in the world – however, speaking only from my experience, we had some really horrible days where we would be in extremely uncomfortable positions, in a muddy field that genuinely sunk when you took each step, in torrential rain soaked through to the skin – picking chillies. The sole of my trainer actually came off due to pulling my foot out of that sinking mud!

HA!
But there were of course some good days!

We laughed, we cried and we moaned – but it is an experience that does not come around often. We have made some of the most beautiful friendships & are so glad that we were able to complete our 88 days in the timely manner that we did!

So…
What to expect during your 88 days!

Filthy, damp and smelly clothes
Every single day. I have never smelt anything like it. You really just have to push through and deal with feeling dirty all the time.

Be sure to buy cheap clothes AND trainers/boots at the very start – and definitely more than one full work outfit. These will get totally ruined and you don’t want to wear the exact same outfit every single day – mainly because it will probably be damp & muddy… or soaked with sweat. Lovely!

I tended to alternate – I would wear a plain t’shirt with leggings/shorts one day, then wear a clean pair the next day – I would then hang out the first outfit to air for the day, whilst I wore the second outfit. I repeated this cycle until I could wash them! Which actually became bloody difficult when we had rain almost every day, nothing would dry! Anytime there was a bit of sun, I would make sure to put a wash on and hang our stuff out to dry ASAP. A tumble dryer would have been ideal but sadly not an option and I certainly wasn’t going to buy one!

Hard work
You will push yourself to do things that you would not usually do. Working in conditions and positions that may be uncomfortable – but all you have to do is remind yourself why you are there and how it will be so worth it in the end. Being the lead up to Christmas, and knowing what we had planned ahead – was enough to get me through!

Ultimately though, and this is something that I told each new starter on our farm who was finding it hard, is that it genuinely really all comes down to how much you want to be there and how much you want to complete your 88 days and/or save yourself some money.

I knew how lucky I was to be on the farm we were on – so I pushed myself.

Long days
Some days will be long, so be sure to prepare yourself for long hours in the sun and/or rain. Take enough water and food to get you through the day – and remember that the work is very physical so you need to keep your body fuelled! You do not want to pass out in the field – believe it or not, this happens more often than you may think!

Short days
Some days will be short. Do not expect to earn the exact same amount of money each week. The hours really do vary – some days we would work for 10 hours, some days we worked for 2 – that is the unpredictability of farm work!

Schedule changes
Never assume. That is one thing that we learnt on our farm – our duties were forever changing. By that I mean that we would be told that we are washing and packing zucchinis first thing in the morning – then arrive to work to find out that we are actually picking chillies during a cyclone! Be prepared for whatever. Also, do not calculate your hours before you have actually completed them, because again – these will be forever changing!


Early starts

Prepare your lunch/snacks the night before, or find yourself rushing the next morning! Luckily I am quite punctual and a huge morning person so I did not have too many problems waking up – however, a 3.30am wake up is a little out of the ordinary for me! I wont miss that time of morning, thats for sure!

Late finishes
Thankfully we did not experience any late finishes. The latest we worked was until 3.30pm – which was called a ‘long day’ on our farm. However, many farms operate until its dark. The citrus workers in our hostel wouldn’t be home until gone 7pm – that is what I would call a LATE finish! I love my afternoons in the sun, but try not to expect them every day; as you do not want to be disappointed.

Hot temperatures
Depending on what time of year you decide to complete your farm work, always consider the temperatures and weather. Buy a hat, take plenty of sun lotion and at the very least; 2 litres of water. There are rumours that Australians get the day off if it is ‘too hot’ – not in the farm world!

No shade
Working in a field full of crops meant that there was not an ounce of shade where we were! Fantastic if you want a tan – not so great if not! Smother yourself in sun tan lotion & wear a hat – and embrace the beautiful Australian weather! (If its not raining of course.)


Embrace it

It may feel like hell some days – but remember, it is only 3 months out of your whole life. These are memories and experiences that you will remember forever – and it will teach you a lot of new things! Enjoy it, force yourself if you have to; but ultimately, make sure that you want to be there. Try your best and good things will happen!

It is an experience that we will remember forever!
Now to spoil ourselves in and around the Whitsunday islands!

Goodbye tent,
Hello big beautiful villa!

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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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