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Australian Working Holiday: Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Packing Oranges

Looking for information about picking oranges on a working holiday visa? Click here.

Throwback post! In July 2009, I was living in a tiny, rural town along the Murray River in South Australia, working a citrus-packing job at a large shed. Some of my hostelmates and I were on the arvo shift (arvo = afternoon = 4:30 pm – 1:30 am), working 6 nights a week, so life was weird! After a couple months there, I decided to “update my resume” with some of the skills I picked up at the factory:

Packing

What is it? Packing basically consists of hand-packing fruit into boxes (or occasionally bags for Woolworths). After being sorted, citrus fruits come flying down into bins we pack out of. The way the fruits are arranged in the box depends on the count, displayed on a small screen above the bin. Sometimes we have to weigh the boxes, which usually means lining up in front of the scale holding 14.5-15.1 kilos of fruit. All quite riveting, I know! It can get exciting though, when we switch from oranges to lemons or tangelos! I’ve even been able to take home the occasional bag of limes or grapefruits.

Skills:
* Multitasking: It takes a bit of effort to master the art of packing while imagining you are doing something infinitely more interesting (i.e. anything else). It’s also important to make sure that your hands are moving at the same speed as usual when chatting to the person next to you, in case the supervisor is lurking nearby.
* Time management: If a bin looks like it’s almost empty when I start packing, I work slowly. Otherwise, I’ll have to be creative coming up with ways to look busy when I’m finished packing. On the other hand, if a bin is ridiculously full, I pack quickly to avoid being stuck in the same place all night.
* Space management: It’s tough to squeeze obese oranges into a box, but even harder when the pack is loose and I’m trying to hold onto 14 oranges at once while setting the next layer on top.
*Ability to slow/stop time: Yeah I’m pretty sure time has actually stopped a couple of times!

Best part: Sometimes we pretend to smuggle the fruit out, Mission Impossible-style, even though we can just ask and take it home!

Continue reading “Australian Working Holiday: Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Packing Oranges”

Australian Working Holiday: Orange Picking 101

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One morning in rural South Australia, I arrived at a vineyard for my grape-picking job, shortly after the sun had risen. The mist was still suspended above the vines, and the air was cool. As I approached, I squealed as I noticed three kangaroos nearby, hopping away through the rows of grapes.

Sound romantic? I thought so too, at first! Not only is following the Australian harvest trail and picking produce a great way to save money fairly quickly, it allows you to extend your stay for another year, if you’re on a Working Holiday Visa.

pHowever, it’s not all kangaroos in vineyards. (That only happened once!) Harvest work is tough; you have to be prepared to work for long periods of time without a day off, to work quickly if you want to earn a decent wage, and to accept that you will probably come face to face with some not-so-cute Australian wildlife.

Still think you might be up for harvest work? Read on to learn about a day in the life of an orange picker.

Continue reading “Australian Working Holiday: Orange Picking 101”

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