With Working Holiday Maker numbers back to pre-COVID levels, farmers have been left a little spoilt for choice when it comes to recruiting labour for their peak harvests.
As a result of high competition for picking and packing jobs, many backpackers are heading to regional areas and cold-calling, that is, knocking on doors and entering gates at farm entrances to try and obtain work.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the jobseeker, this presents a significant biosecurity risk to the farm.
While Australia is a great place to visit, there are lots of nasty pests and diseases that can catch a free ride on boots, clothes or vehicles of people that move on and off farms.
Here are a few general tips about protecting yourself and our farmers –
- Keep vehicles clean – make sure your vehicle is free of mud, soil, seeds and plant material. Give it a real good wash, especially the wheels and undercarriage, before driving onto a new farm.
- Clean your footwear – pay special attention to your shoes as they can easily carry contaminated soil and seeds. Some farmers will ask you to leave your boots on the farm after work each day, so having a spare pair to wear to travel in isn’t a bad idea. Other items of clothing such hair nets and hats should also be checked for any seeds or plant material
- Park in designated parking areas and immediately report to the farm’s office – at all times follow the directions and signage provided on the farm, and steer clear of cropping or plantation areas.
- Clean and disinfect equipment – if you have your own tools (such as pruning shears) then ensure they are thoroughly clean by wiping them over with soapy water and disinfectant before use
- Report symptomatic plants – if you see a plant pest or disease symptom that you think is unusual, report it to the farm manager or owner immediately.
We also recommend you watch this short and informative video on Biosecurity for farm workers.
Ultimately, these pests and diseases can wreak havoc on our farms, and the knock-on effect of damaged or lost crop can have a catastrophic impact on farmers, jobs (including your own) and local economies.
Our biggest piece of advice is to avoid dropping in on farms unannounced.
Instead, contact your local Harvest Trail Services provider, or call the HTIS Contact Centre on free call 1800 062 332. Securing work before you arrive and taking on board the general tips above will ensure a successful job experience and a happy farmer!