Soooo to start, if I was to describe farm work in a couple of words or in a nutshell it would be - “One of the worst but also one of the best times of my life!” - I’ll try and explain why that is as clear as I can & hope to give you some good info nuggets on what to expect and prepare for!
When I first came to Australia I always knew farm work was something I definitely wanted to experience, mainly because I wanted to stay in Australia as long as possible but also because I saw it as an experience that I’d never had before, and probably would never have again in my life (unless that is if I came back to the U.K. and decided that a career growing potatoes or vegetables was for me, highly unlikely). When looking for farm work it can feel like a bit of a minefield, I remember doing google searches and websites from 2002 would come up with advertisements asking for 2 pretty girls to come work as dairy farmhands in the arse end of nowhere paying $10 a week (AVOID!!). For me personally, I used resources such as friends of friends who had done farm work or by asking people who had already experienced it for their recommendations of hostels to contact and which States, etc - this way I knew it was reliable & safe!
I ended up doing my ‘88 days’ at Delta Backpackers in Ayr in rural Queensland, this was recommended by some girls I knew from home who hadn’t actually done their farm work there but had met people along their travels who said it was really good & a trusted place to make sure their days were signed off as legitimate (always be careful with this as some farmers can be shady). I choose to go around Mid March as it was starting to get to the cooler months in Sydney/Melbourne - you’ll find a lot of backpackers travel further north at this time of year to complete their 88 days as it’s still sunny in QLD and crops still grow!
I did have to wait around at the hostel for a few weeks for work to start, however, I was one of the first people on the worklist & you’ll find a lot of working hostels work in this way, a first in first out to work kind of system! I choose a working hostel environment and I am SOOOOO glad that I did, this is definitely where the idea of it being the best/worst time of your life comes in at its peak. There were around 100 people living in the hostel and each day we would all go out to work, slave away doing manual labor/picking/packing vegetables & then all comeback & debrief on our day, go to the pub, cook dinners together, watch films, host quizzes, create hostel sports days, themed fancy dress nights, swim in the pool - I think if I had to complete the farm work on an isolated farm with only a handful of other people I would have gone crazy as 3 and a half months is a long time to be doing such mundane work!
As someone who loved to exercise & workout, I thought I would have been quite well prepared for the physical challenge of farm work, however I won’t sugar coat it, it is absolutely brutal & you will use muscles that you have no idea even exist, I remember after my first day of weeding I couldn’t walk up the stairs properly for a week... but don’t let that put you off, because there is honestly no better sense of achievement that picking your last fruit/vegetable on day 88 surrounded by your new group of best pals and thinking ‘oh my god I can’t believe I actually just completed that’ and then realizing you get a whole further year to spend frocking around with your new pals in Aus, whether that is more booze cruises in Sydney harbor or traveling down the east coast in a campervan!
Working hostels are basic, and if you’re like me, you will rock up there with a suitcase full of clothes & makeup & you won’t wear them for the next 4 month because, in all honesty, the people that you end up being with for those 4 months will see you at your absolute worst, and you’re lucky if after a days work on the farm you can even be bothered to brush your hair let along put makeup on - life is definitely stripped back to basics and I think the simplicity of life is something I really enjoyed, the only responsibilities you really have is making sure you can make your 6 am alarm, and not spending all of your weekly wages in the pub on a Saturday so you can pay your $150/200 a week rent!
I turned up to the farm alone and was totally terrified, unsure what to expect & yeah sure I could have easily left after the first hard day thinking nah this is not for me, but my god I am so glad I stuck it out - you will have your lows & boy, they are LOW days, however, you will make friends for life & also actually have some of the most fun, the cities of Australia are fantastic but I had some of the most fun times of my working holiday visa during my farm days - it really is a once in a lifetime experience & something that I would recommend everyone to try, after all, you made that long flight all the way to the other side of the world so you might as well stay for 2 years!! Go with an open mind, say yes to new experiences & most of all ENJOY it!!