The hustle and bustle has begun. The trees in our northern-most orchards are ripe for picking and our seasonal workers have started flocking to the pack house in Yarck to begin sorting our delicious cherries into bags and boxes ready to be sent out to eager customers.
The energy is electric. Harvest is like Christmas for the team here at Koala Cherries; the time of year where everyone comes together to pick and pack the fruit that has taken all year to nurture and produce.
Every year around 700 seasonal staff join the permanent Koala team in preparing for the season, harvesting and distributing our cherries. The orchards and pack house are filled with new faces, some returning and some fresh to the team. Individuals from all over Australia and the world come together to harvest our fruit, making for a fun, vibrant atmosphere. The lunchroom is full of fascinating stories. The chatter in the orchards is diverse and interesting. It is a time of learning for everyone.
Emily, a long-time Koala Cherries employee, describes how meeting new people is one of her favourite aspects of working for Koala. “The people make it,” she says. “Hopefully next year we can welcome back all the backpackers and students that have missed out due to Covid this year.”
Emily says the lack of overseas and travelling casual staff has had an impact on the season already. “Our biggest challenge at the moment is people; that’s what’s holding us back from packing more efficiently and better quality.”
Companies like us here at Koala Cherries rely on our seasonal workers to pick and pack our product. The closed borders and ban on travelling due to Covid has caused strain on the industry. Luckily, there are still some locals willing to pitch in. “We’ve got some return staff that are fantastic. They are superstars, they just hit the ground running and know what they need to do.” Says Emily, describing some of the seasonal Koala staff that return annually to work during the harvest.
Koala Cherries has joined other agriculture and rural businesses in the New GAP Year campaign by Thankful4Farmers. This campaign markets to students and people look for a tree-change. “Have fun, earn money & get outta town”, the website boasts. Now more than ever, the Australian agricultural industry is relying on locals and city residents to roll up their sleeves and make some cash out on the farms.
When asked about the New GAP Year initiative by ABC Radio, and whether she’d be interested in it if she wasn’t already working for Koala, returning Koala Cherries employee Daphne said: “Oh, absolutely! It’s great. I know a lot of people here [at Koala] who do [something like New GAP Year] already. They’ve been travelling around Australia picking different fruits. They’ve been meeting at lot of people. I’ve been meeting a lot of people here.”
Daphne is a student and local to the Koala Cherries area, residing in the neighbouring town of Eildon. She says it’s easy for small-town folk like herself to create a little community, so the opportunity to meet and speak with new people from all over the state and country is exciting. “It’s a lovely area [to work]. You get to meet really cool people and have a fun time.”
Daphne acknowledges that it is harder for companies like Koala Cherries to find staff this year due to restrictions and a lack of overseas travellers. She encourages fellow students, locals, and city folk looking for a change in scenery to consider working for the agriculture industry. “If you’re worried about accommodation, Koala can help.” Says Head of Employment at Koala Cherries, Alison Rouget. Government subsidiaries may be available to employees who must travel to work in rural areas. “We encourage anyone to apply. We can work out an arrangement that suits you best.”
With harvest season underway, now is the time to consider a summer-time adventure. Earn money, travel, make memories and help the community by applying for a seasonal position at Koala Cherries through New GAP Year.
Click here for details
Find out more about New GAP Year here
Listen to Daphne’s radio interview here: (47:55)
Find out more about government accommodation subsidiaries for workers hereAnd finally an interesting article on fruit picking in your gap year from the ABC here.