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Farm work, fruit picking and harvest jobs for gap year travellers FAQs

Many of the top backpacker and gap year destinations will have seasonal jobs available for gap year travellers who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. So what are the most frequently asked questions about working on a farm or fruit picking?

Where are the best places to find fruit picking jobs?

Fruit picking and harvest work are traditionally a required rite of passage for independent travellers in Australia, but other countries have similar work available. Harvest work in Australia is an obvious option because it is such a large country with a relatively small population, so travellers on working holiday visas are positively encouraged to work on farms. Indeed, you can even get a second working holiday visa when your first one expires if you have done 3 months specified work in a regional area of Australia (basically where the government thinks the extra labour is required the most).

What kind of crops will I be picking?

In Australia, the harvest season is pretty much all year round, depending on the crop and the location. Typical crops would include apples, cherries, cotton, grapes, citrus fruits, tomatoes, berries and melons. 

In other countries, the harvest periods are more limited. In the UK you would expect to find work fruit picking from June (strawberries and soft fruit) through to October (apples and pears). In France the biggest harvest event is the famous vendange or grape picking season, which is the end of August to the beginning of October. 

When you are looking for fruit picking jobs, it helps to have an idea of what is involved in advance. Sometimes you will need to ask the employer or agency or other backpackers for this information, other times you should just use your common sense. Picking watermelons for example is going to be harder work than picking grapes! Some plants have thorns which make picking potentially painful, and for others you will need to use secateurs which will take some getting used to. Picking fruit that grows close to the ground involves lots of bending and back work, and weather conditions are worth bearing in mind so that you don’t find yourself with sunstroke or frozen fingers!

How can I find harvest work or fruit picking jobs?

Australia and New Zealand have a great many backpacker hostels in rural locations that can help you find work. You can do your research online by checking out the website at jobsearch.gov.au/HarvestTrail/ which will help you to work out what crops are being picked where and when.

The UK has a network of job centres that can help you find work, although many farms recruit locally by word of mouth. 

Will I be able to choose what kind of farm or harvest work I do?

Once you get to the agency, the backpacker hostel or the farm and offer yourself up for harvest work, you probably won’t get to choose what you do. If you can drive or have experience in certain areas of farm work such as driving tractors or using machinery, then you may well get those kind of jobs, but otherwise you will need to take what is offered to you. 

What kind of accommodation can I expect on a farm or ranch?

This varies massively, but if you are staying in a rural hostel, they are more likely to have fewer facilities than city centre versions, wherever you are in the world. Backpacker accommodation on farms could be anything from caravans, to barns or tents. Check what the set up is before you accept the job.

How much money can you earn fruitpicking?

Things that will influence your pay include where you are, how good the crop is, what kind of season they are having weather-wise, and what the pay arrangements are. Sometimes you get paid by weight, sometimes by the hour. Again, clarify this before accepting the work or heading out to the site.

What kind of hours will I be working?

In Europe working hours are between 0800 and 1700 roughly speaking, although in warmer parts of the continent such as southern Spain, Italy or France, you may not work through the afternoon when the sun is at its hottest. If you do have a siesta break then you will probably work later into the evening.

In Australia and New Zealand summer temperatures can be prohibitively high around midday, so many fruit picking jobs involve getting up very early - sometimes 4am! This may come as a shock but you will have finished your days work by lunchtime.

As a general guide you will need...

  • To be relatively fit!
  • Comfortable shoes which are safe for standing in fields all day
  • A hat
  • A water bottle
  • Sun block
  • Insect repellent
  • You should also bring some cash to tide you over in case the weather puts back the harvest.

Remember your fruit picking jobs checklist

  • Plan your route depending on jobs availability
  • Decide what kind of work you would be happy to commit to
  • Make sure you have enough money to support you in case of things not going to plan
  • Research, research, research!