A full guide to 88 days of farm work in Australia
So you’re loving life in Australia and want to stay for another year? In order to be granted a second year visa, you will need to complete 88 days of specified work in a regional area - so here's a full guide to 88 days of farm work to help you out.
This specific work includes things like forestry, mining, fishing and some construction but the most popular option by far is plant cultivation, such a fruit picking/packing.
We started our 88 days only 3 weeks into our time in Australia to just get it out of the way at the start and never have to think about it again. We loved that we made this decision, as we were able to just concentrate on fun things for the rest of our time in Oz but it’s all good if you do it at another stage, it just needs to be completed before your first year visa is up so make sure you give yourself time.
Always give yourself more than 88 days to complete it
Farm work is unpredictable. Sometimes the work can stop due to weather conditions or the season can end prematurely. It took us 4 months to complete ours and we know people who have taken longer.
Looking for farm work can be quite daunting, as there are a lot of horror stories out there so we’re here to help that process be a little less scary and confusing. We had a sound experience throughout our farm work, albeit sometimes making little money but we came away with no poisonous bites, no horror stories and we regularly got a sausage sizzle on the farms too!
"So, I have to do 88 days straight?"
In simple terms, no. It can get confusing trying to work out exactly what counts as 88 days. The official immigration website states the following:
To meet the three months specified work requirement you must actually work for the same number of days that a full-time employee would normally work in a three month (88 calendar day) period. You can do this in a variety of ways, for example:
working five days a week for a continuous period of three calendar months, including on a piecework rate agreement; or
working less than five days a week over a period longer than three calendar months, including on a piecework rate agreement;
working multiple short periods of work in any combination of full time, part time or piecework rate, which add up to the equivalent of five days a week over three calendar months.
So the main point to take from that is that if you work 5 days of a week, you are able to count 7 days towards the 88. However if you work less than 5 days a week, you can only count the days that you actually worked.
You also don’t have to do the 88 days straight, they can be split up however you like and with as many farms as you like.
"What will I get paid?"
There are two main ways to get paid when doing farm work.
This means that you will be paid according to the quantity that you pick/pack. Sometimes it is done by weight and sometimes by units, such as trays filled.
There are some people who like being paid by piece rate, as they are really fast pickers/packers but we found in our experience that there are very few backpackers who are good enough to get a decent wage this way. You could be that person though!
Hourly paid farm work will do what it says on the tin and pay you for how many hours you’ve worked rather than the amount you’ve picked/packed and usually works out better money wise. The pay rate is usually around $23.66/hour. Hourly paid farm work is harder to find than piece rate so an option could be to start off on piece rate to get your days down, whilst you look for hourly work elsewhere.
"What’s better, picking or packing?"
So there’s two main roles when it comes to backpackers doing their farm work. Either picking or packing. Picking means that you will be out on the field doing the manual labour of picking the fruit/veg. Packing will usually involve being inside a shed, checking the fruits of the pickers labour for any bruises etc and then packing it, ready to send off.
Australia is a bit behind when it comes to stereotypes, so girls are more likely to end up in the shed so that guys can use their ‘braun’ to do the harder work outside.
When it comes to which one is better, this is down to personal preference but personally, work wise we preferred picking as it was nice to have the fresh air, feeling yourself getting stronger and fitter as time went by was good and you can usually work whilst listening to music or podcasts. Shed work was boring to us, standing on one spot for hours doing repetitive work and we weren’t allowed to listen to music as attention needed to be paid to the shed machinery. Money wise though, shed work is usually paid hourly so we preferred it for that.
Harvest Trail is really helpful to see what is in season in each state throughout the year.
What should I pick/pack?
Pretty much everything grows in Australia so you have plenty of options. There’s everything from bananas and strawberries to onions and tomatoes but what type of farm work you will do will depend a lot on the season.
"Where is good for farm work?"
Again, this will rely heavily on what is in season. However, also be aware that the farm work has to be completed in specific postal areas. You can find a list of the eligible post codes here. All of South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania count as regional Australia.
"How do I find the farm work?"
There’s a few different ways you can hunt for farm work:
For us, Facebook was a huge help when it came to job hunting. There are a few Facebook groups dedicated to helping backpackers find farm work, where different vacancies are posted each day if you just search ‘farm work Australia’. ‘Backpacker Jobs in Australia’ is a great group to join for job listings and just general Oz advice too.
Once you have an idea of where you want to head, you can also search for groups specific to that area and there’s usually a lot of chat about what jobs are available or any rooms to rent etc.
Backpacker Job Board
This is a website for backpacker jobs in Australia in general, although we find that it’s not very helpful for jobs outside of the farm work realm. However, there’s always a good few postings for farm work on here so definitely worth checking.
A lot of farms don’t bother with Facebook or job search engines so Gumtree can sometimes be your best bet to see jobs you won’t see elsewhere. It’s also a great place to place a post saying that you are seeking farm work with a description of yourself and what you’re looking for and some farmers may contact you.
Some farms don’t bother with anything online at all so then it is worth choosing an area and searching for farms on Google Maps. You can then get their contact details and be able to call around to see if any of them have vacancies.
If you have an idea in mind, it can be really helpful to search that location on Instagram to be able to see who is there working at the moment. You can then send people messages to get an idea of what the work situation is in that area. If you don’t have a clue where you want to head, it can also be helpful to search for the hashtags #88days or #88daysaslave. From here, you can see where everyone is posting from, get an idea of the most popular areas and send some messages around for advice.
We’re all in the same boat so whenever you’re at a hostel or anywhere else with plenty of backpackers around, just ask around to find out others experiences or you might find people who are about to head off to do their farm work and you could tag along!
Find a Working Hostel
Working hostels are hostels specially located in popular farm work areas. They provide you with somewhere to stay whilst you do your farm work and also help to find work for you. They are great for meeting new people and is probably the most fun way to do your 88 days. However, this comes at quite a heavy price as they are very expensive for what they are. Always make sure you check out reviews too, as some have bad reputations and are known for saying they have work for you but then that changes once you arrive.
Having a car is a huge advantage when it comes to finding farm work. There are quite a lot of farms that only accept workers who have a car. Once you’ve got an area in mind, they are also great for just being able to drive around and visit farms in person to see if there’s any jobs available. Having a car also means that you are less likely to have to rely on a working hostel.
"But what about all these farm work horror stories?"
There are some horror stories about crazy farmers, hostels and farm work scams and it can make it very daunting to look for work, trying to avoid your own horror story.
If you’re careful you should be OK but here are some things to look out for:
Don't be fooled by a sweet deal
Do be aware that when it comes to Facebook, Job Search Engines and Gumtree, there are some scams out there. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always check out reviews and try to contact the farm directly to check if it’s legit before you head off somewhere.
Don't pay upfront
A lot of these fake job listings will say that an upfront fee is required, there’s free accomodation, ‘guaranteed’ jobs or will post the wrong produce for the wrong season so be sure to cross check it with the seasonal produce guide here. 99.9% of the time you should not have to pay any upfront fees to get farm work or have anyone help you find it. Free accomodation in a hostel/hotel is most likely to be a lie but it should be noted that some farms do offer free camping facilities or free basic accommodation.
Check the address
Look out for advertisements that only provide a post office box contact address (no street address) or any agency that guarantees you a quick visa or sponsored employment to work in Australia.
Don’t rely on an ABN check.
Scammers have been known to hijack legitimate ABN numbers.
If you are 100% sure that for some reason, sending money is required (although we highly discourage doing this), you can check their BSB number to see what bank it is connected to. If the search comes up with something like ‘Australia Post Pre-Paid Card’, reconsider. No legitimate company ever uses a "Pre-Paid" bank card in relation to hiring workers.
It's not all bad!
Don’t let these things worry you too much though! Most of it will come down to common sense and you’ll be able to sniff out a scam. Just make sure you do your research before committing to anything.
We had a pretty good farm work experience so below we will share exactly where and when we worked to help if you’re looking to work around the same time too.
Caboolture farm work
What? Strawberry Picking
Where? Berry Patch in Wamuran/Caboolture, Queensland
When? August - October. The season ended in October and started in June.
Caboolture is only about an hour’s train ride from Brisbane so it doesn’t feel too rural. Caboolture itself also has all the major supermarkets and a shopping centre too.
We stayed with a local family, who we found on Facebook. They had a spare car that they let us borrow whilst we stayed there too. The room had Netflix and a PS3 and a seperate bathroom to the family. This cost $130/week.
There is also the option to stay in a hostel called Caboolture Backpackers. A few people from our farm were staying here and we didn’t hear too many complaints. They provide a lift to and from the farm.
Perks? Strawberry picking on this farm was pretty easy. You’re sat in a trolley with shade and pick the strawberries as you roll through the lanes. The farmers are nice and don’t really bother you. They also did BBQ’s every now and again, which was nice.
Cons? The pay is piece rate and terrible unless you are super fast at picking. If you arrive at the start of season, you might be able to land hourly work planting the strawberries.
This is a good option if you just want some easy work to get rid of your 88 days and don’t care too much about the money or for somewhere nice to work whilst you look for something with better pay.
Gatton farm work
Gatton is a small town further inland. It is more rural but still has major supermarkets, Target and McDonalds. There is also a public pool, which is fab on those hot Queensland days! Gatton is also close to Tawoomba, which has all the major shops and if you have a car, Brisbane is around an hours drive away (3 hours on public transport though!). This town is full of farms so there’s plenty of opportunities for work when the seasons right, especially if you have your own transport.
If you don’t have your own transport, there are a lot of contractors in the area who will pick you up from your accomodation and take you to the farm. Please contact us if you’d like some contact info for the good ones.
We stayed in a share house that we found on the ‘Gatton Backpackers’ Facebook page. There are plenty available in Gatton, ranging from around $80-110/week. We paid $80 a week, sharing with 4 other people. This included bills and WiFi.
There aren’t any hostels in Gatton itself but there are some in the surrounding areas. In Gatton, the main backpacker hub is a caravan park. The caravan park is great for socialising and if that’s your main priority, it may be worth staying there. We would advise a share house though, as the caravan park is over $100/week with no WiFi included and taking a shower comes at a fee! If you’re solo travelling, it is a good idea to stay here to meet some people and then later find a share house together.
What we did
We did a few jobs in Gatton so here is a summary:
What? Onion Picking
Where? Gatton, Queensland
When? October. This was nearing the end of the season though, so earlier than this would be better.
Perks? Onion picking isn’t too difficult. There’s a lot of stories of some produce being absolutely back breaking but we didn’t find onions to be too bad. Although don’t get us wrong, it wasn’t easy either!
Cons? Again, this was piece rate so the pay wasn’t great unless you’re fast. THE SMELL. Picking onions will mean that you and your clothes will constantly stink!
This a good option again for people who want relatively easy work to get rid of their days. As there are quite a few hourly paid jobs in Gatton, this is also a good option to get your days down/make some money while you wait to secure one of the hourly paid jobs in the area.
What? Chipping pumpkins and carrots
Where? Gatton, Queensland
When? October - November
We got this work through a contractor. Chipping is essentially like weeding so you're getting rid of the plants growing around the produce. We would highly recommend grabbing any chipping jobs you see as this is definitely the easiest hourly work to get in the farming world. We also got hourly work in the same farm sorting the carrots in their shed but see more about shed work below.
Perks? Hourly pay and very chill.
Cons? Can’t think of any!
What? Shed work. Beans, corn, broccoli.
Where? Rugby Farm. Gatton, Queensland
When? November - December
One of the main farms in Gatton is one called Rugby Farm. Rugby Farm producing the veg for Australia’s largest supermarket, Coles. So you can imagine the intense operation of this farm compared to some others. To get a job at Rugby Farm, you will need to hand in your CV in person and wait for a call/text back. This time of year is a good time to apply as they do a huge recruitment session for the busy Christmas period.
Shed work is the stage between picking the produce and having it head to the store. It involves sorting out the good from the bad and making sure it looks ready for the public eye.
Perks? Hourly pay
Cons? Shed work is SUPER boring. Especially in the stricter farms, as you aren’t allowed to listen to music or anything. In our case, it involved standing in one spot for 10+ hours doing mind numbing monotonous work.
This is great work for saving money. The hours are long, paid hourly and there isn’t much to spend your money on in the area. Just beware, you may feel your brain melting away!