Unless you have an endless pot of money or don’t want the option to extend your working holiday visa to two years, at some point on your travels, you need to do some type of regional work.
I was going to write this post on my first week on the farm. In fact, I got pretty far into the post until I realised that it probably wasn’t going to be a fair assessment of what it’s like to work on a banana farm in Australia.
Now I’ve finished my first month on the farm, I feel better placed to write a fair account of what it’s like to do your regional work on a banana farm.
The farm I’m currently working on is in Tully, Queensland. The hostel I stay at has a relationship with the farm and so the process of finding work is handled for you. You just need to complete your Yellow Card safety course prior to starting work on the farm and then just show up on the day you’re due to start.
I’m not going to lie, the first week on the farm was hell. I genuinely thought about quitting on the third day as the type of work and how you were treated and talked to was unlike anything I’ve ever done before, plus the 5am starts didn’t help!
Fortunately, the other farmers and my adopted family at the hostel talked me into sticking it out and I’m glad I did.
There are lots of different jobs to do on the farm, which are split between ‘the shed’ (inside) and outside in the paddocks. Generally speaking, the better jobs are those outside of the shed, but here’s a few of the jobs that I’ve done during my first month on the farm.
Bags on spikes: Not really a full-time job on the farm but it’s generally where you get put when you start or when there’s a quiet period. It is as it sounds, you basically pick up a bag that has been taken off a bunch of bananas and put it on a pair of spikes. You repeat this process until you have enough bags to roll up ready to be put back into storage.
Clustering: This job involves cutting bunches of bananas into fives or sixes ready to be sorted and packed. It’s a fast paced but incredibly monotonous job that I did for one day and hated.
De-bagging: As the bunches come into the shed, they are hanged on a conveyor system that takes the bunches through the wash before they are cut and put on the sorting belt. De-bagging basically involves removing the bags before the bunches reach the wash. I did this for a few days and it sucked, although the prospect of a bunch going through the wash with a bag on it, turned it into a little game for me as I didn’t want that to happen!
Knots & Trailers: This isn’t really an official job, but I did it for a couple of sessions. Before the bunches can be hanged the hanger has to untie the knots in the bag. To help the hangers out on a busy day, someone generally unties the knots and removes the empty trailers to keep everything ticking over. It’s not a bad job to have as you’re generally left alone to get on with it.
Laying Pipe: I spent a few sessions helping the farm owner lay pipe for a new paddock that’s currently under construction. I only did that for a few hours before I got pulled off to do what is my favourite job on the farm….
Humping: This is probably the best job on the farm. Humping involves taking the bunches from the tree and then taking them to the trailer. It’s a physical job and my first day on humping destroyed my shoulder. I’ve since got the technique down and I actually really enjoy it.
There’s a tonne of other jobs on the farm that I haven’t done yet, including sorting, packing, stacking, hanging, irrigation, de-leafing, diesel injecting and stringing.
Hopefully the next two months will go as quickly as this one has as I’m dying to get travelling again. In the meantime I’ll continue to spend my days humping in the sun!