Originally from Wollongong, NSW, Cathie Downie started her Harvest Work in beautiful Coffs Harbour. Her intention was to look for any type of work while travelling Australia in her well-equipped van. Cathie’s thought process was to start with hospitality so she completed her RSA certificate (Responsible Service of Alcohol).
While listening to the news one day there was mention of a shortage of harvest workers throughout Australia due to COVID and the reduced number of backpackers. Cathie called the closest Harvest Trail Service office and the friendly and helpful staff at Coffs Harbour secured her a job on a blueberry farm. With the added incentive of the Australian Government’s Relocation Assistance scheme, this was an opportunity too good to refuse. This is where Cathie’s harvest work started.
After undertaking blueberry work throughout November and December 2020, Cathie wanted to move on. She secured more harvest work and travelled to northwest Victoria along the mighty Murray River, arriving in Mildura where she started picking and packing table grapes. Her next move was to a farm picking and packing jujubes. These are a fruit native to China and are also known as a Chinese date or red date. While working in Mildura, Cathie described the circumstances as being ideal as she was able to park her van and stay onsite, utilising the farm’s kitchen and bathroom facilities.
Cathie told MADEC that for many years she worked as a recruitment consultant and her previous working conditions had all been in air-conditioned offices and she had never completed any of this type of work before. Now she found herself working outside in the fresh air with a travel itinerary not many people experience. She is also learning a great deal about production of the fruit and vegetables that we all take for granted.
Describing shed work as mentally challenging because it was repetitive, she also commented that working in the field was physically harder as you need to adjust to being outdoors in all types of weather. She has decided she enjoys working outdoors, setting her own pace – and not having to meet KPI’s!
Being able to work and travel throughout Australia was proving to be a great experience for Cathie. She stated that the MADEC Harvest Trail Service has made this experience very easy and stress free, and that all the staff she has been in contact with have been very approachable and helpful. Cathie is looking forward in the near future to returning to the regions she had worked so far and continuing with horticulture work.