From Warwick, my boyfriend and I headed to Stanthorpe, a slighty larger town in the picturesque “Granite Belt.” Stanthorpe has an abundance of fruit picking work. It is mostly famous for its apples and vineyards but there are plenty of vegetables and stonefruit grown here too. It is also the coolest town in Queensland – its high altitude means it can get pretty cold in winter and the town has even seen snow in the past.
We met up with some friends who were staying in a caravan park on the edge of town. They were paying $130 each per week to stay in a 6 bed dorm style cabin which was really nice and clean with its own kitchen and bathroom. We had our campervan so stayed in the camping section for $10 each a night. Most people in the caravan park were young backpackers fruit picking on local farms so there was a fun atmosphere on the campsite and lots of friendly people to meet. The owner of the caravan park regularly received calls from farmers looking for workers so you just needed to put your name on his list and wait for a call. We arrived on a weekend so there weren’t many calls coming in so rather than hang around we took a walk to the Saturday fruit market and handed out our number at a couple of fruit stalls. That evening one of the stall owners called and asked us to start work the next day on his stonefruit farm.
From the minute we arrived on the farm we knew that this job would be much better than our lettuce picking job in Warwick. The farmer was a friendly Kiwi who got us to start picking plums and told us not to worry about how many or how fast we picked, just to go at our own pace, drink lots of water and eat as many plums as we liked (how could we refuse?!).
There were 4 German boys and a girl from Taiwan picking with us, and several Aussies who collected our buckets and loaded up the palettes with fruit. We picked plums, peaches, nectarines and apricots on the main farm, and my boyfriend and I were also sent to another farm nearby to help pick cherries. I loved this job – wandering along in the shade of trees, chatting to my work mates and eating delicious cherries…oh yeah and picking them too! You wear a picking bag which acts as a kind of pouch and in the pouch sits a bucket which you drop your fruit into – easy!
After work each night our farmer would bring out a crate of beer and we would sit around chatting. The farmer even asked if we wanted to stay on the farm to save some money so we moved up there in our campervan and used the staff kitchen and shower.
Again, we were paid an hourly rate of $19.20 and we could work 7 days a week or take a day or two off if we wanted. We worked from 6am to 3pm and had the rest of the day to explore Stanthorpe, its wineries and the surrounding area which included the beautiful Girraween national park. We met some very hospitable locals and even ended up feeding someone’s chickens and alpacas while they were away for a weekend.
Although we could happily have stayed here for months we had already arranged go to Byron Bay to meet up with some friends from home and do some wwoofing (which stands for willing workers on organic farms) with them over Christmas. So sadly we said goodbye to our farmer and left Stanthorpe with lots of good memories and a very positive fruit picking experience.