So how did I survive my first week on the farm in Australia for my second-year visa? It’s unreal how much can happen within a week. So believe me, it’s quite a story so hold on and read along.
It all started with an add on Gumtree, two girls looking for farm work
How it all started.. I posted an ad on Gumtree that I and my best friend aka Cally from back home are looking to work on a farm straight away when she arrives in Aussie (Gumtree is a marketplace where you can sell/buy/offer anything). Btw I’m super stoked to spend time with her and share memories!
I’m already in Australia. Just a few days before she arrived I got a call from a guy. He said we could come to Shepparton to pick pears the day that she arrives in Melbourne on the second of February. Because we needed some time to rest and settle we decided to leave the next day.
Train to Shepparton from Melbourne
On the third of February on Monday, we took the train around 1 pm to Shepparton. The train stopped in Seymour and we had to take a bus from there this trip cost us around $22 each. The guy who’s name is Madi would pick us up from the station and we would sleep in a temporary share house for a week for $100 per person.
Riding the train, we were so nervous but still excited because we had no idea what to expect. What if he is really weird? What if he never shows up? And who knows, he might kidnap us? I mean, you always hear crazy stories about how they try to exploit backpackers doing farm work. This might happen to us? But it was a sunny day so we kept it positive. (It is summer, and sunny every day but who cares, the more reasons to be positive.)
Calm before the storm
Once we arrived in Shepparton after a 3-hour train and bus ride we called him. He said he would be there in 10 minutes. So we just sat outside on the sidewalk eating some sunflower seeds and waiting for him to pick us up. Your guess is as good as mine, we had no idea what to expect.
10 minutes passed by and then this black 4×4 drove into the parking lot. The guy inside the car called and we found him. It was a Malaysian guy who speaks broken English and has funny half long black hair. He was a short man and a little chubby. He told us that he just finished working on the farm. I asked him if he owns the farm and he said he doesn’t. He just works there.
We both found it a weird story. But, whatever we are here now. He is not going to kidnap us, so let’s do this. In the car, he told us that we would start tomorrow at 6 am. After five minutes we arrived at his place. We drove into a corridor that led to an ash field that looked like a garbage dump. He parked the car here and we went up the wooden stairs into the apartment.
Cockroaches in the kitchen, bathroom even our bedroom, they’re everywhere!
In the shared house the first thing you saw was a dirty orange carpet, a half-tanned green sofa, and a kitchen unit. It was small and smelled strange. We shared the apartment with Malaysians, two girls, Madi, and his roommate. In total there were three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The girls showed us our room. There were two mattresses of different heights on the floor. Moldy walls and when I say moldy I mean fucking really moldy. We had to pay $200 in total for this crap! Cally and I looked at each other, where the hell did we end up?
Anyway, we thought we could do this for a week. So we put down our suitcases and took our groceries to the kitchen. When we opened one of the kitchen cupboards we saw cockroaches everywhere. Disgusting! Cally, we really have to tell Madhi to get another place asap, but it was so late already. So we went to sleep.
First day of farm work
The next day we woke up at like 5 am got ourselves ready. Madi was supposed to go with us but instead, he went to a different farm today to do farm work. So at 6 am we got picked up by other Malaysians. We sat in the car and after 10 minutes we arrived at a farm. It was the first-day picking pears at this farm for everyone. There were about eight other people from Asia. We were the only girls. After waiting for one hour the ”boss” finally arrived.
Picking pears from big ass trees
We had to take an iron ladder (which was so heavy omg) a bag to pick pears and got on the tractor with 4 big bins we had to fill. We were teamed up with two other Malaysians. For every bin, we filled we get $36 dollars. Therefore, if you really want to make money you should at least do 5 bins by yourself to get like a decent hourly rate.
I think we got this
The tree we had to pick was four or five meters high. And because it is summer, it also gets 30 degrees. Like fools, we looked at the tree that was full of pears from top to toe. We climbed the ladders and actually I am afraid of heights and I’m a midget 158cm. Which does not help at all. I really had to pep talk myself so I could get the pears that were hanging super high, lol.
The two Malay boys said they had done this before and we could see it in their picking. Cally and I were just staring at them and thought; we will never be able to do this. Cally and I had to fill two containers just like them. When the boys had the two bins full, we almost had ONE full. So they decided to help us because as long as the four bins are not full, no new cart can be collected.
There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that we’ll do this again
While we were picking pears they had music on. Super emotional Malaysian songs and they shouted rather than sang. I didn’t know men could be so emotional. If only you could hear what I have heard. When they weren’t playing Malaysian songs, they were playing Clean Bandit – Baby on repeat. Yes, every hour it came back to haunt us. I couldn’t bear it. The heat, this music, climbing ladders. We looked at each other and said no, we are not going to do this tomorrow. NO WAY. DONE.
Freaking 10 dollars an hour or even less?
After five hours of farm work, we were broken. The guys helped us fill the bin and we went home around 1.30 pm and filled eight bins with the four of us. That is two bins for each person. We made $72 dollars each working for seven hours. That is like maybe $10 dollars an hour (this is only because the guys helped us else it would have been maybe $4 an hour).
So the guys brought us home and Madi who got us here came home a little later than us. He said he went picking on another farm with a lot of backpackers. He told us we could start with him on Thursday (it was Tuesday that day) and that this farm was only for training.
It’s all about the hat and Madi in the back
We asked Madi if he had some hats for our farm work so my bestie put it on and she was dead serious and said: ”Oh that’s good protection!” I was looking at her like, are you serious? Girlfriend, you really think this is the way to wear it? Let me take a picture of you so you can see it for yourself. Here is the picture with Madi on the background. I told you he has wild hair.
I don’t know, I will think about it, will tell you in three days?
We told him we are not going to work tomorrow because the trees are too high. We are not going to break our legs for freakin 10 dollars an hour. He said don’t worry the trees at the other farm are not so high so you can pick more bins and it will be easier and start on Thursday. Everything is good good there. In Madi’s broken English voice.
The next day we stayed home and went to the swimming pool in Shepparton. Before we left I asked him can I get my 88 days like for sure, for sure and payslips? When will we get paid because we worked yesterday? He said: I don’t know, I will think about it, I will tell you in three days. (LIKE WTF?) So we just booked a flight but were afraid to tell him that we wanted to leave since he really tried to make us stay.
I think we should leave this place
On the way home from the swimming pool we decided to just tell him when we get to the house that we will leave tomorrow and our flight will go at 4.30 pm from Melbourne. Luckily the train station is was so close so we did not really need him to bring us.
Once we arrived home we told him and he just didn’t understand. He said: ”cancel your flight, you’re not going. Just stay one more day it will be better I have a different job for you. Don’t need to worry. Don’t go. Like really, you cannot go. Cancel it.” So we replied we really don’t want to stay here in this house and with this job and whenever we ask you something you just say I tell you later? We really going to go because we already booked.
Apparently we are not the only ones treated this way for farm work
Then he said two german people stayed in the room one day before us and they said they wanted to leave after one day as well. Madi promised them to get them another place so the Germans gave him another chance and the next day he brought them to a different place. Since he really wanted us to stay he just called up Julie and suddenly I was talking to her on the phone.
I spoke with her on the phone for about 20 minutes and she told me everything. They were working on the Jefftomson farm and on the first day they did 5 bins $36 a bin together and there were a lot of other backpackers. So it sounded ok. Little more trustable but still we were suspicious. Like who wouldn’t be after what already happened?
Booked a flight to Brisbane
We said we will think about canceling the flight so the next morning he called us at 6 am. He said don’t go please, I’ll give you back the money that you paid for the flight. The cost was $300 in total. We checked the forecast in Brisbane what we should have done before we booked the flight but never mind. It would rain the whole week and even chance on a flood. Because of the rain and that he would pay us the money back we decided to stay (he actually gave us back all the money!).
Same pears different day
The next day we went together with Madi at 6 am in the morning to the other farm. First, we had to pick up Julie and her boyfriend the Germans from the phone.
After that, we arrived at the farm. It was a big farm and there were loads of backpackers there I guess around 20 people. With a few backpackers, we had a chat and after 15 minutes we started to work on the trees. We got an aluminum ladder which was so much lighter than the ladder from the first farm. We were stoked, the trees were less high it all felt trustworthy!
It took us seven hours to fill up four bins together and we were zombies. It was so hard and so heavy. Some guys managed to fill up 6 bins on their own! What!? That would take us 18 hours lol. But yeah, you guys have more muscle mass so it’s unfair. Tip: I recommend for girls to get paid hourly for your farm work or work together as a team with a strong guy (your boyfriend) who doesn’t complain that you are slow.
You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs
On our way home Madi told us he could get us an hourly paid job for picking pears but we had to pay him $300 each a person so four of us in total (the germans and us) would be $1200 dollars, what?? Is he joking?? He’s off his rocker! ”Madi, we haven’t even got paid yet and we worked for three days, now you are asking us $300 each just for a job? This is crazy.” He said: ”yes but this is normal if you really want an hourly paid job, you have to pay because of this is rare for picking pears.”
After a little discussion, we decided we would only pay $150 each instead of $300. He agreed and we would have an interview this Saturday. He told us we would get a call before and had to say we got in because of his friend who works there. Eventually, no one called and we just went to the interview on Saturday.
The day of the interview for our hourly paid pear picking job
We arrived at the interview and I saw people I recognized from the Jefftomson farm. I asked them how they got here and he told me they called the farm and signed up via Facebook. So yes, Madhi had ripped off us! Thanks, Madhi. Eventually, we paid for our flight ticket ourselves LOL.
There are clouds on the horizon
Then on Sunday, we had a day off and in the evening our landlord came and told us that the contract for the property expires and everyone has to leave. But he had another house for four people. Cally and I and the two Malaysian girls were allowed to have a look. We drove there and the house was clean, in the center, close to the supermarket just really perfect! Once back, Madi told us we couldn’t go there because the Malaysian girls don’t want to live with us. Uhh, okay? This just hit the nail on the head.
From cockroaches to sleeping in the kitchen
He told us that we had to go to the house with the Germans, there was a room available, but it was in the kitchen without a door with only a curtain. At the beginning of the week, he also said that he had this room available but that we shouldn’t take it. But now he FORCED us to take that room? He even called Julie and told her to call. I mean, why would you be like that?
So after that, the landlord came back and found out that Madhi said that the Malaysians didn’t want to live with us. The landlord Ali said it was bullsh*t because they are not the ones deciding. We are all equal and he is right. Madhi didn’t want to take part in this he said that it’s not his problem and walked away off to his room. Then Ali spoke with us and told us it will be ok and if we want to stay there we can and that he Malaysians girls will not.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire
Madi was in his room and Ali said come let’s go to Macdonalds. We didn’t want to go but we felt like we couldn’t say no. I mean, I know we had a choice but it doesn’t felt like we had. His intention was to scare the girls and Madi. So we drove there and his car was so trashy, unlike the car from Madi. You know it tells a lot about a person the way they treat their car.
We ordered some chicken nuggies & fries. It was disgusting because we are on a fruit and veggie detox for our liver by Medical Medium. Just a few minutes after my tummy already hurt, I was bloated. What a waste of our evening!
While we were eating Madi called me but I didn’t answer so he called Ali and Ali didn’t save his number so he picked up. Madi sounded very upset and told him to bring us home directly because we had to move. Ali told him ok, ok. I will bring them back don’t worry.
Moments later we went back and got in the car, Ali told his whole life story and his relationships and all the women he had been in love with. That’s all we talked about. Plus he speaks broken English so you actually don’t understand what he’s trying to say. Whatever he said we just nodded and said yes or no.
You have now both lost your two jobs
When we got home, Madi suddenly stood wild with all his things packed in shopping bags ready to almost leave. He was angry and irritated so we asked him: ”what’s wrong why are you suddenly going? Yes, you do business with an Arab if you do that, I want nothing to do with you. Since you are here you only give me headache and create problems for me. You have now both lost your two jobs!”. What a perfect storm.
And then he left with all his things. The room was completely empty and his roommate was standing there speechless. He was glad that he no longer had to listen to his snoring.
So we thought ok, did this really just happened? Let’s arrange transportation ourselves because we certainly have farm work that counts for our second-year visa whether he wants it or not. All the paperwork is already filled. We just go to work tomorrow if he doesn’t want to bring us any more than that’s cool. Cuz he only wanted to make a profit on us anyway.
Go back to the drawing board
Next morning he called us at 5 in the morning that he would pick us up and bring us to the house of the Germans so we just went. On the way, in the car, he talked about Ali and how he is not and that he has been in an Arab country for 10 years and bla bla bla. What a madhouse. We deposited our suitcases and went straight to work. Madi did not go because he suddenly had a job as a supervisor at the second farm.
Because of this we still had to fix our own transport. So we might as well have stayed in the other house because the house where we are sitting now we sleep in the kitchen and it is 25 minutes’ walk from the supermarket and far from the station.
Our third pear picking farm job in one week
Once we arrived at the new farm (the third farm) we were super happy. The trees were low and did not have to climb ladders. We received protective glasses and gloves and our own pear bag. I feel like we are on cloud nine. Well, you really didn’t get this with the other two farms! They didn’t care if you would break your back, what you did, as long as you fill your bins.
I ate more pears in one week than in my whole life
We picked green Nashi pears at an hourly rate which was $24.37. We worked together with a girl and at the weekend we hang out with her and she said I think I ate more apples in one week than in my whole life. So we said: you know they are not apples right? I mean you got hired for picking pears and signed a contract that you would pick pears like LOLOL. But seriously NASHI PEARS ARE FUCKING DELICIOUS.
After the farm work, we called Madi that we had fixed our own transport. We asked how it was being a supervisor at Jefftomson. He told us that when he arrived he was supposed to be the supervisor of Ali’s team but the manager said he couldn’t. He was pissed and he left. So now he lost his job at the good farm for nothing. It’s true, you get what you deserve.
Btw we got a new room now in the same house that has a door and a fan, yay! And we never got payslips for the three days we worked, nay.
Comment if you have any questions about farm work, second-year visa, payslips, you say it!