MADEC Harvest Trail Services Manager, Latarah Heming caught up with HR Manager Dorothy Stolk from Simpson Farms to share her background and experience on the avocado farm.

Simpson Farms is located in Childers Queensland, which is approximately 41kms from Bundaberg and 1280kms north of Brisbane.

Simpson Farms is a family owned business that manages more than 850 hectares of which 770 hectares are planted to avocados and 80 hectares to mangoes. Simpson Farms is also a large processor of avocado and mango products as well. 

Operating at four various locations around Childers and the Bundaberg region, Simpson Farms employ more than 320 during the peak avocado season across the farms, packing sheds and processing plants.   The avocado season is from February to August with peak being from April to July.  The mango season is from December to February.

Dorothy Stolk commenced as HR Manager in January 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and has loved working for Simpson Farms and has found her role very interesting and notes that she finds it awesome being back working in regional Queensland.

MADEC Harvest Trail Services Manager, Latarah Heming (left) with Simpson Farm HR Manager, Dorothy Stolk (left)

Explain what ‘A day in the Life’ of a worker entails on Simpson Farms?

Field workers are our pickers and pruners for either mango or avocado crops. This would include learning new skills such as cherry picker operation, haul out operation (collecting bins from the paddock full of fruit and bringing them back up to the shed for packing), and pole-saw (battery operated saw).  Packers work in the packing shed on the farm.

A typical day for our pickers and pruners would commence at 7am until 4pm during winter months.  In summer we usually start earlier and may stop around midday if the weather is too hot.  The average shift hours range from 8 to 10 hours.   On each plantation we have two teams consisting of pickers and pruners and these teams have supervisors who work with the Farm Manager to meet the schedules.  As mentioned the workers duties include haul out operation and pole-saw.

Our packers normally commence from 6am to 5pm depending on the time of the season.  The packers are putting the fruit into trays destined for consumers in Australia and overseas.   We provide ‘on the job’ training on how to grade the fruit as per specifications and they are teamed with experienced packers.

How has MADEC Harvest Trail Services assisted your business and what have you found most beneficial?

The 2021 avocado season was the first time we have utilised MADEC Harvest Trail Services.

MADEC Harvest Trail Services assisted with picking and packing harvest opportunities which was invaluable as this year’s avocado yield was extremely high and the quality has been excellent. 

MADEC had the expertise and ability to supply a strong and reliable workforce whereby we were struggling to source workers on our own.  With the support from MADEC Harvest Trail Services they sourced enough workers to ensure that we did not lose any crops this season due to lack of workers.

What advice would you give workers regarding harvest work?

Harvest work can be hard work. Growers need workers that are reliable and understand our schedules and have a commitment to ensure our deadlines are met. We need workers that will turn up to shift on time to ensure the fruit gets picked and packed based on the harvest schedule.

Did you find MADEC Harvest Trail Services easy to use? How did this MADEC service benefit your business?

MADEC Harvest Trail Services was incredibly easy to use and at no cost to us. MADEC Harvest Trail Services has been a reliable source for our labour demands, with a quick turnaround to find workers. 

Latarah and her team assisted the workers with completing paperwork and answering the many questions that the workers had regarding the Relocation Assistance incentive that the Australian Government is providing.