Sunday, December 25, 2011

I’ve Been Workin’ On the Blueberry Farm…

This is how a blueberry cluster should look. Lots of blueberries ripening all the time. This is New England, not Australia.

By Kathleen

Alright, I know, we’ve been bad bloggers. Its true. I’m sorry.

See  last time we checked in, which was too long ago, I still had not seen a kangaroo and we were headed up the Hume Highway towards are blueberry destiny. That destiny, like so many fantasies, does not have a happy ending. Suffice to say we have completely sworn off blueberries and anything else blue for the rest of the year. Ok, well no not really that would be very dramatic. But we were swindled and now I have a better feel of what it is like to be migrant worker.

Where shall I begin…

We arrived in the small town of Kempsey, ready for our adventure and were excited to see, amongst other signs of life, a crunchy little organic store selling bulk items and Dr. Brommer’s Soap ( squee!)

So delicious!
The farm was located on a pretty little dirt road that apparently is populated by growers, we were warned not to go wandering lest we be mistaken for trespassers or police and shot. The blueberry farm was simple enough 6,000 plants is actually no so many when you see them all and there were reasonable facilities. Here I will point out that after Asia almost anything can look reasonable but in this case I mean a hot water shower, flushing toilet and kitchenette. Best of all it was filled with other backpackers. “ Great” we said.

The next day was our first blueberry picking day and it went swell. The sun wasn’t too hot, the work was easy, most everyone who spoke English was nice and we hit it off really well with a girl who is a long term volunteer at Panya ( for those who weren’t paying attention that’s the farm we stayed at in Thailand and yes… there is a quiz). We were in good company.

However, there were problems. They were small issues to be sure, like the missing door on the shower, or one toilet for 20 people, but seeing as we have already established that anything above what 10$ will buy you in Asia is fine we didn’t much mind. What concerned us were the rumors that the money was crap.

In the add we were promised 7$ kilo for big berries and 2.50$ for a kilo of small, pretty good money. But then it rained… for a week, so but the time we showed up what fruit was left on the bush was mostly overripe. This was complicated by the fact that the last bunch of pickers hadn’t stripped the bushed properly so there was no chance for the plants to make new fruit. We were stuck with leftovers.

Still big leftovers little leftovers, they add up… or so we thought. Turns out that anything other that top quality big berries was deemed a “ jam berry”. We weren’t paid for jam berries. At first this seemed fair, they couldn’t sell jam berries so we didn’t get paid for them. Until it became clear that they were in fact selling jam. That interestingly, it was one of their biggest sellers. Funny…. I swear they were “jam berries” because they were bad and couldn’t be sold.

Now here’s a lesson for all you budding entrapanuers so listen up. If you have a product that requires minimal cost input and you don’t pay your labor then what you make is almost entirely PROFIT.

It really would have been almost tolerable, except for the farmer’s husband. He comes to us after work and gloats about how “his” jam sells so well he was able to buy a big screen TV after last weekend's market.

This is compounded by the fact that at every turn they would try and do favors, freeze your meat offer pizza, so we all felt too guilty to leave. Until we saw our paychecks. Then everyone made like Moses and got outta dodge.

Fiz and I didn’t leave with the exodus, we stayed for another week ( we did drive 1000Km to get to the damn place). In the end it was sad, the full timers were so cool and the work was fairly easy. Strangely the boss could never figure out why we all left. Totally eluded her. When we found out Fiz made $7 in one day we left too.

We traveled to Sydney where we stayed with the friend from Panya for a few nights. We also meet a German couple who happened to be staying as well. They were super cool and we ended up traveling with them on our way back down south.

The four of us spent Christmas under a tree with a roast chicken, some blueberries and Australian brandy cream.  Tropical birds, pink and white “caw-cawed” as we North Hemispher-ers wished each other a Merry Christmas. We were right in the middle of it when a huge thunderstorm came rolling, we ran through the rain with our chicken back to our cars.

Now we are back in Victoria in a place right outside of Shepparton called Mooroopna. It’s the middle of nowhere, not even a nice little organic shop in sight. We are looking to pick tomatoes. We need to get new tires for our car.

Prospects seem good. The people at the camping spot across the way have offered us picking jobs and we drove down here on the promise of a packing job. One is a lot more money than the other but the hours are crazy. Still I’m debating the crazy for the substantial increase in my personal wealth.

It is quite difficult to decide. I think we may find out more information tomorrow.

Oh and I finally did see some kangaroos!

1 comment:

  1. Well hello there! In your entry did you use the data from any researches or these are solely your private conclusions? Can't wait to hear from you.