You might say we haven’t tried for long enough, or maybe you might think we’re just not cut out for the farm life. But the truth is, it isn’t the work that we turned our backs on. It’s the companies and the way they treat their employees. If you haven’t already read my blog post on My First Experience of Farm Work, then go and read that first. After the first farm in NSW, we drove back up to Queensland for a job we found through Extend Oz. Even though this story isn’t a glowing review of farm work, I do highly recommend this agency as they really did do everything they could to help us. Here’s Why I gave up on farm work.
It was all good at the start
Both raspberry picking and strawberry planting, I rather enjoyed. I’m a perfectionist and I love completing things. And as mundane and boring as both may be, I loved the fulfilment I got out of the two jobs. Granted, planting strawberries was extremely physically draining, but completing my row was a win and I loved seeing myself get faster as I learnt the best way to plant.
That didn’t last for long though. On my third day at the strawberry farm, I was put on sprinkler duty. I was happy I wouldn’t be kneeling or crouching all day and was finally able to stretch my aching legs. It seemed as if everything was going great. I ended up soaking wet and my shoes were squelching from the wet mud, but I enjoyed my day at work a little bit more. Until I got home.
Not what I expected
I had felt something scratching on my arm all day while moving the sprinklers around to make sure all the plants were being watered. I just thought it was sand in the dirt. The soil in Australia is a lot different to what I’m used to seeing in the UK. Red and orange hues pigment the dirt from centuries old volcanic activity.
Once I looked at my now dry arm, I could tell that it wasn’t sand that I had felt. All over my right arm I had what looked like grazes in a long, thin line. I then saw it all over my clothes. Fibreglass. I had tiny shards of fibreglass all inside my arm. There wasn’t a spot that wasn’t covered by my t-shirt that didn’t have at least one piece. Some places were worse than others – my wrist and inner forearm were covered in grazed rashes. I was in so much pain, I could barely move my arm. This was not what I was expecting from a strawberry planting job.
How to get it out?
I had never even been around fibreglass before, so I had no idea what to do to even start getting it out of me. There was nothing much more for me to do than breakdown crying and ask Alex for help. He thought I was being over dramatic and left me to start plucking the shards out while still sobbing in pain. It wasn’t until he actually took a look at my arm that he realised it was serious.
We googled what to do, and there were three options – tweeze them out one by one, securely but gently stick tape over the area in order to quickly pull them all out, but also risk pushing them in further, or soak the area in an epsom salt bath to loosen them out of the skin. We chose the last option, simply due to the sheer amount of them in me. After three soaks, it seemed as if I would forever have these tiny, invisible shards stuck in my arm.
Beginning of the End
Four days on, and there were still hundreds of pieces of fibreglass piercing my skin. All that was left to do was to pluck it out. I took a couple of days off work to attempt to remove the bulk of them. For hours I sat plucking at the shards. I would regularly rinse the area with warm water to help open my pores and then cold water to remove any of the fibreglass that my have been released out of my skin. I was simply doing everything I could to try and relieve the pain I was in. On the second day, Alex and I made the decision to not go back to the farm. The owner was refusing to answer our calls and hadn’t even once attempted to call us to check if I was ok. In my mind, I didn’t want to work for someone who could completely disregard someone like that. After it was their fault an employee had been injured like this.
We didn’t have to worry about trying to call her though, once our friends had arrived back from their day at work they informed us that, in fact she had fired us for not turning up.
Over a month after this happened, I was still finding new shards everyday that were slowly pushing their way out of my skin. Even now, my skin is still slightly darker in the worst effected areas thanks to the rashes from the fibreglass irritating my skin. I honestly didn’t think I would ever end up fully getting rid of it. Thankfully I haven’t found any shards for about a month now.
Is Farm Work Really Worth it?
The answer to this question will really depend on who you ask. My personal opinion is no, it bloody will isn’t! We’re so grateful that we found two amazing friends on the way, and that made it a little bit more worth it.
However, when you look all over the backpacker Facebook groups, you see a lot of people saying that farm work has been one of the best experiences of their lives. I have no idea where they’re finding these amazing opportunities, but we certainly didn’t find them, and neither did any of the people we met along the way.
For us, it wasn’t worth hating those three months (or most likely more) of our precious time in Australia, just for an extra year. For now, we’ve made peace with leaving Australia a year earlier than we planned. I’m pretty sure we’ll be back on a tourist visa sometime soon though.
I’d love to hear from you if you had a positive experience of farm work – leave a comment down below letting me know where you went and what you did!