Regional Work: The Saga Continues

First of all, I would like to apologise to my (very small but very important) readers for going off the grid for a while. Blogging took a back seat for a few weeks, but the good news is I have now returned with LOTS of stories to tell!

My last blog entry was perhaps slightly on the negative side, as it was written after a series of rather unfortunate events involving the doomed topic of “regional work”. Well, I am delighted to announce, that not only have I had a really wonderful farm job since then, I have also FINISHED my 88 days! Woohoo!

Of course, this success has not been without its fair share of obstacles…

Follow Your Gut

We waved goodbye to our friends on the nut farm in NSW with a few walnuts in our pockets, but not with anywhere near as much money as we’d hoped for. We started to feel the pressure to find a new job, fast. We really needed the money, and I really needed to push on with my working days, so we were prepared to go for the next thing that came up (even if that meant returning to dreaded piece work). Well – all I can say is, even when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve been to Gatton.

I’ll keep this short because I really want to focus on my positive experience this time – but here’s the story of Gatton in a nutshell:

  1. We start applying for jobs online while we are still at the nut farm so we can be ready to work straight away. Same old story – we apply for everything that seems suitable on Gumtree, Backpacker Job Board, iBackpacker, etc.
  2. We receive a really friendly email from “Martha Hodges” at “Ozzie Veg Pickers”. She promises hourly paid work, 10-12 hours per day, 6 days per week. Perfect. The only catch is we have to pay 2 weeks rent ($150 p/w – each) AND we have to pay a $200 bond (each) upfront. Not so perfect.
  3. BUT, Martha sounded professional, the work sounded steady and we figured we could make the money back in no time. Plus, it sounded like heaps of other backpackers stayed there and had a good time – so we’ll give it a go – it would be worth it, right?
  4. So wrong. First piece of advice: no matter how desperate you might be – ALWAYS follow your gut instinct.
  5. Turns out, “Ozzie Veg Pickers” and “Martha Hodges” = a complete scam/fabrication. The company (currently) operates under the name “Elite Harvesting” and the owner’s real name is Mayla Bailley (to our knowledge). Once I got hold of the real details (after a lot of questioning to the young guy who we gave the money to) I did a quick Google search and all I can say is – we got our rent/bond money back and we were out of there faster than our legs could carry us.
  6. You can read about Elite Harvesting here if you’re interested in the details.

As we frantically drove down the road, away from what felt like our own deathbed, I felt overcome with relief, anger and joy all at the same time. Thank GOD we got back our last few pennies, how DARE they fool hundreds of backpackers into working there every month, and HA! We figured you out just in time! We pulled into the closest rest stop to recover from the whole ordeal and promptly got back to the job search.

I may not believe in God but, if anything, luck was on our side (finally!)

We trolled through the usual websites and applied for every job we could find in Queensland, and then – as if by magic – a new job ad was posted on Gumtree 3 minutes ago, just 40 minutes away from us. It sounded perfect. Phil called the number and after one phone call, we were back in business. Next stop: Dalby!

The Good Stuff

So, here’s the thing: I didn’t follow my own advice from my own blog about regional work, because desperation set in. Realistically, this happens to so many backpackers who are just trying to meet the requirements of the second year visa, while trying to keep their head above water and see a little bit of Australia at the same time. I suppose I should tailor my own advice to be more realistic to backpackers: do what you have to do to get the days done, just don’t give up on the job search for something better!

Our job in Dalby was on a cotton farm, and it was everything we could have wanted to find in a regional work job – we had hourly pay, great hours, nice accommodation (at no extra cost) and we were working on a beautiful family owned farm with a really lovely bunch of people (and 5 adorable dogs!) Plus, we got to ride quadbikes all day.

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Nobody said it was easy…

Maybe the novelty of the quadbikes wore off after a few days, as our job was basically to ride them endlessly up and down each and every paddock, in the search of these problem weeds called Feather Tops:

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That being said – it beats fruit picking any day!

After a few hours on the job, it felt like we quickly became programmed to do one thing, and one thing only: KILL THE WEEDS!! These feather tops may look harmless, but they are completely invincible when it comes to weed killers, so the job needs to be done by hand. Cut the feathers off, chuck them in a bag, and hoe the weed out at the root. Jump back on the quad. Repeat.

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Phil looking pleased with all our hard work: 40 + bags of weeds!

So maybe our job was fairly repetitive, but we also got to experience a whole bunch of other things. Like hopping in the cotton picker (which is huge + weighs 36 tonnes!) for a ride, or watching some of the most stunning sunsets after work, trying some of Deb’s delicious baking, or sharing a beer and watching a movie with our roommate in the evenings. The whole thing was a really fantastic experience – we felt valued on the farm, our work was genuinely appreciated, and we actually managed to save a bit of money which put us back on the right path again. We can’t thank everyone we met on the farm enough – not only did you show us that farm work can be enjoyable for backpackers, you also lifted our spirits and put a big smile back on our faces with all of your kindness 🙂

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Cotton pickers mean business – weighing 36 tonnes and costing over 1 million dollars

Next time, the adventure continues as we head North up the Capricorn Coast!

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