Harvest Trail Services – Success Stories

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Harvest workers share their experiences working with MADEC

With enviable locations and an outdoor lifestyle, many workers can’t get enough of the Australian harvest trail. Check out their stories.

From running tables to packing lychees

Caboolture’s Suzanne Gall moved to harvest work after a long career in hospitality – and was surprised how much she loved it.

Suzanne, a Caboolture local, worked in hospitality for 33 years but when she started experiencing health issues, she went looking for something different. A ‘friend of a friend’ had started harvest work and encouraged Suzanne to give it a try. While she was initially hesitant, she now says “I never thought I would like it as much as I do.”

A fruitful experience

Suzanne has worked picking, packing and planting. Her first position was picking lychees. Having enjoyed the experience, she stayed in the sector and moved on to planting strawberries. She’s currently working as a packer on a custard apple farm. Suzanne says she’s up early, with her days starting in the “freezing cold” but it’s all part of the experience. Suzanne says she enjoys being outside in nature and getting to know other people working on the farms.

Plenty of work

Suzanne went straight to MADEC Harvest Trail Services (HTS) when she was curious about harvest work. She “didn’t have any challenges finding employment,” with MADEC HTS placing her on the lychee farm immediately. When lychee season wrapped, MADEC HTS found her another role doing strawberry planting.

“The MADEC team are always happy and upbeat! I enjoy coming in for a chat and a cup of tea. Have had a great experience. They have always found something for me and let me know when something new becomes available.”

“I like the staff, they are always friendly. What MADEC do is very helpful for people like me.”

MADEC provided Suzanne with induction training, which, as someone brand-new to harvest work, she says was very helpful. “They are informative and keep in touch. It’s a very nice and supportive relationship.”

Suzanne says she is always given enough hours, and they suit her schedule. Plus, working outside is a welcome change from her time spent in hospitality. Suzanne says she recommends MADEC HTS for both growers and other workers like herself. “I love horticulture work. Being outside is lovely. It’s a great way to see Australia. Once you pick up some skills, you can travel the country with them.”

Harvest work provides flexibility, friendships – and the occasional quokka sighting

Harvest work can be so much more than just extra money. For traveller Tamara Kartheininger its about meeting great people across the country, experiencing all types of work, and seizing the opportunity to see some incredible wildlife.

Tamara Kartheiniger and her partner are engineers from Germany. They came to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa chasing opportunities and adventure.

In 2020, the couple found an advert on seek.com which led them to their first horticultural job in Australia – on a cactus farm in Western Australia.

Since then, MADEC Harvest Trail Services has helped connect them with a variety of harvest work taking them to different places across the country, the flexibility of short-term harvest work allowing the couple to experience Australia to the fullest.

Earn money while travelling

“Harvest work definitely pays for good travelling. I have had so many amazing experiences here in Australia. I just saw a few wild dingos on Fraser Island today, had Quokkas smile at me on Rottnest and met some friendly wombats in Tasmania.”

Coming to harvest work with no expectations, the experience has been rewarding on a personal level for the couple.

“I am so thankful for the people I met or worked for, and the many things I learned. I didn’t expect it but it is really rewarding work.”

No experience and good working conditions

Prior to coming to Australia, Tamara and her partner did mostly office work, but she says MADEC Harvest Trail team offered the support she needed in finding work and accommodation, and meeting visa requirements.

And in all her roles, the working conditions have been great. “The physicality of the work sometimes was challenging at first as I have previously done mostly office work, so I reckon if I can do it, anyone can,” says Tamara.

“Whether it was the supply of safety gear or the hours and pay, I have experienced great work conditions at all my harvest jobs. Without exception, my bosses or supervisors have treated me with great respect. “

The couple’s most recent gig was picking apples in Shepparton, where they were paid an hourly rate.

Tamara admits that the first week was hard. “We had long days and my muscles were really sore but once I pushed through that, it was great. I didn’t expect it but it was a really rewarding work. I enjoyed being outside all day and the beautiful sunrises in the orchard.”

Tamara has also appreciated the multicultural environment of the orchard. “The challenges around working in a multicultural environment are worth it. We all communicate with hand signals for smoko, lunch and finishing for the day.”

“At Shepparton, we stayed in a dorm room with shared facilities. It was enjoyable to cook together and socialise with the other backpackers and seasonal workers after a day’s work.” Now on the road exploring New South Wales and the east coast, Tamara and her partner plan to come back and work for the cactus farm again. “They have become our Australian family.”

Flower picking an outdoor lifestyle

Beautiful experiences make flower picking the job of choice for Jacquie Bailey-Rodick.

In early 2022, Jacquie was working at a yoga retreat in Northern NSW – when local flooding started, she picked up and made her way to Tasmania to pursue flower picking.

Life on the farm

Jacquie currently lives and works at a beautiful lily flower farm in Tasmania’s north. She heard about harvest work through her local community and then reached out to MADEC Harvest Trail Services, who found her the role locally. Her role involves bunching flowers, which she is paid hourly for. She learnt to do the bunching on the farm and says it’s a skill she’s glad to have picked up.

Rewarding work

Jacquie has experience in a range of industries, including some horticulture work in the past. Her previous experience had also included education.

She holds Certificates 2 and 3 in horticulture and has previously helped manage a small-scale farm. She says her experience contributes to her appreciation of working outdoors and enjoying the natural environment. “It’s nice to be close to the plants and to understand the different conditions and how different the outcomes can be.”

Jacquie has said the work can be very physical at times. “The work is hard and challenging but really worth it. You get to go to so many beautiful places and experience so much.”

MADEC a helping hand

The team at MADEC have been with Jacquie since day one. She says they’ve always gone above and beyond and are “super helpful”. The local team not only found her positions, they also helped her navigate government requirements and paperwork. This made it easy for her to get out and working straight away.

Harvest employers share their experiences working with MADEC

Harvest employers need high quality and reliable staff. Read more about how MADEC makes recruitment easier.

Tailored services provide the right candidates for flower picking

Maarten Blokker, Director at Blokker – flower growers in Tasmania – says working with MADEC helped them secure the right workforce.

Located in Wesley Vale, North-West Tasmania, Blokker produce Freesias, Irises, Ranunculus and Sunflowers over two hectares of glasshouses. Depending on the season they also grow between five and ten acres outdoors.

The Blokker flower farm began over 23 years ago, with only igloo and crop covers to protect flowers as they grew. Martin says that as the market shifted to a preference for year-round supply, climate-controlled glasshouses became a key method of production. Blokker currently employs between 15 and 35 staff, depending on the time of year.

Harvesting at Blokker

With two seasons a year, Blokker needs quality workers that are mobile and willing to work short seasons. Due to the range of flowers grown, there are multiple picking periods and often work periods are just three to six weeks. Flowers peak for picking at different periods (depending on variety) from January through July. A second shorter season runs from October to mid-December.

Recruiting quality staff

Maarten says recruitment is where MADEC’s reputation shone.

“MADEC (Harvest Trail) is well known, and the staff have large networks. Using their services has been a real time saver.”

Maarten and his team find MADEC Harvest Trail Services easy to work with: “we have a good relationship” but most importantly, MADEC finds the right kind of workers for flower picking.

“In our area, there are a range of other industries that are able to pass on labour cost. This means they can pay their staff more, and it can be hard to compete. But we’ve found we can rely on MADEC (Harvest Trail)  to get the harvest workers we need.”

MADEC Harvest Trail Services listen to employer requirements and tailors their services in response. With a large network of potential candidates, it’s easier to locate those that will be a good fit for specific industries.

We’re harvest workers – just not the usual suspects

With COVID-19 disrupting backpacker availability for fruit picking and harvest work, MADEC is helping Australian growers explore a new market for staff. Their own backyard.

Oakes & Sons, a family-run business producing pineapples and cane, has seven locations around the Maroochy River in Queensland. As the COVID-19 pandemic set in, brothers Gordan and Murray who took over the business in 1981, had concerns about staffing. But they needn’t have worried. Local recruits supplemented backpackers initially, before taking over completely as international travel almost completely ceased.

Crops at Oakes & Sons

Established in 1963 with sugar cane plantations, in 2002 the family began exploring alternative crops, ultimately landing on pineapples.

Of the Oakes & Sons sites, five produce sugar cane and two pineapples. With around 300 acres dedicated to pineapples, the business grows up to 1.2 million pineapples every year. The group are currently working through changes to their production approach and crop numbers, are will likely to reduce the pineapple crop slightly.

Pineapples are produced year-round, but peak between January and March, and again between July and September. Gordan and Murray like to have between 10 and 12 workers, year-round, for managing pineapple crops.

Peak season for sugar cane harvesting is June to November. Sugar cane harvesting is mainly managed with machinery, so labour requirements are low.

The effect of COVID-19 on worker demographics

COVID-19 disrupted worker supply at Oakes & Sons, but not in the way you might think. The team never struggled finding workers – but the demographics changed overnight.

Before the pandemic, all workers were backpackers. Gordon and Murray would source them through local hostels. Once COVID spread through Australia, bringing with it travel restrictions and lockdowns, backpackers seeking work dropped off, seemingly overnight.

The brothers pivoted to using MADEC Harvest Trail to recruit staff.

Using MADEC Harvest Trail Services to bolster staff

The past season at Oakes & Sons was a mix of Australians and travellers. This season, all staff at Oakes & Sons have been either locals or travelling Australians.

Using Harvest Trail is an ‘easy process,’ say the brothers. ‘It saves us time recruiting – we just call our local rep and she finds us someone within a couple of days.’

The brothers say they recommend using Harvest Trail Service to other growers and have no complaints with the service.

A supportive environment gets the most out of staff at Marenny Vale

Apples, plums, cherries and cider – Marenny Vale Orchards need a well-rounded team for their busy operations in Shepparton.

Now third-generation fruit growers, Marenny Vale Orchards was started in the 1980s by Mark and Jenny Morey. An abandoned citrus grove was their first venture, which they soon turned into a highly productive apple orchard. In order to utilise all of their apple crop, the family introduced a cider brewing company in 2004.

Today with three locations spread across the Shepparton region, Marenny Vale Orchards primarily produce a large variety of apples, but also have cherries and plums in their repertoire.

The popular Pink Lady and Granny Smith varieties make up the bulk of apple production, but they’ve also introduced heritage varieties for making their signature cider, Cheeky Grog.

Seb Nicholson, Personnel and Harvest Manager, has been with the group for over a year, managing the day-to-day activities, as well as human resources.

Busy harvest periods

The variety of crops at Marenny Vale means a busy harvest season.

The year kicks off with apple season, which generally starts mid-January and runs through to March, and requires up to 80 seasonal staff. The team can pick up to 6,000 bins of pink ladies in a season.

Cherry season starts in October and requires around five harvest workers.

Plum season usually gets going around Boxing Day – December 26.

Working at Marenny Vale
Peak periods see harvest workers primarily out in the orchards from 7am to 3pm.  The main role of harvest workers is picking, although there’s plenty of work for those with tractor licences too. Sebastian looks out for tractor licence qualifications when assessing potential staff because it’s a real bonus in terms of getting other jobs done around the properties.

Pickers work in teams of two to four but run separate bins per person

One of the main attributes Seb looks for in harvest workers is being physically fit: “that, and a can-do attitude.”

“Ideally, they are up for trying new things. We provide a lot of on-the-job training and support, and we work with our staff to get the best out of them. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!”

Outside of peak harvesting time, Marenny Vale has about 10 staff working to maintain pruning and thinning functions on the orchards as required.

Attracting and retaining high quality staff

Sebastian says MADEC Harvest Trail has really been helpful in finding quality workers for the business, and last year sourced all of their pickers.

“MADEC Harvest Trail Services staff take the hassle out of finding workers. What is most valuable to us, is that MADEC undertakes visa checks to confirm the workers have the right to work, plus they provide inductions. It allows us to focus on what is important for our business operations.”

Sebastian believes everyone deserves a shot, and actively supports workers on the farm

“We have people from all walks of life who are interested in the work we have available here at Marenny Vale Orchards.

“We always provide guidance where we can. If our workers feel supported, that’s going to result in a lower turnover of staff.”