The blueberry harvest season runs from late December to early February
Picking and Packing
The main focus of the business is high quality fresh blueberries; all
fresh blueberries are hand harvested and hand packed. Harvesting of fresh
fruit is a labour intensive operation and requires large numbers of
pickers, with some packers also required. Market destinations for the
fresh blueberries include Australia
, Japan and UK
Hand picking work often commences at approximately 8.00am each
morning, although this start time can vary according to the weather
conditions at the time. Fresh blueberries cannot be harvested wet,
therefore there must not be any dew or rain present, for this reason the
start time is usually not earlier than 8.00am . For the above reasons, no
harvest is possible on rainy days. Picking often runs 7 days a week but
not on major public holidays such as New Year’s Day or Christmas
& Boxing Day. Employment is covered under the current Certified
Workplace Agreement. Hand harvest usually concludes at 3.00pm to 4.00pm
but this again can be determined by the weather.
Packing shed hours are typically 10.00am to 6.00pm but this depends on
the quantity of fruit to be packed. Picking is much more labour intensive
than packing so packing employment opportunities are limited. Packers are
often experienced pickers.
Picking blueberries is not difficult with all work carried out from
the ground. The blueberry bushes are not tall and are easily accessed.
There are no thorns or impediments to the picker. The fruit is grown in
clusters with the fruit ripening gradually within each cluster. Each
blueberry bush is picked a number of times each season with only the ripe
fruit removed each time.
The picking method is to pick into a 3 litre container tied around the
waist of each picker. This allows the use of two hands. Pickers sort as
they pick and are asked not to pick immature blueberries. When the
container is near full the picker then carefully places the blueberries
into a shallow tray. All picking containers and trays are provided. When
the picker accumulates two trays they are taken to the supervisor’s
station for weighing in and quality checking.
Pickers are assigned a team, each with its own supervisor. The
supervisor is responsible for the quality of blueberries harvested by the
team, recording individual picker volumes and ensuring the picking is
done in a satisfactory manner. The supervisor assigns pickers to rows and
portions of rows. It is not necessary to be a physically large or strong person
to pick blueberries well. It does take a few days to master the picking
technique. Manual dexterity helps, as does application to the job. To
enable a satisfactory wage to be earned pickers need to be dedicated to
the task and work undistracted. As with any fruit picking not everyone is
suited to the task, some people will find they are unable to pick
reasonable volumes of blueberries.
The blueberry farm provides clean amenities, fresh drinking water and
Important items for blueberry picking include enclosed footwear, long
sleeved top and protection from the sun including a hat. Packing shed
workers will be asked to wear enclosed footwear and hairnets. Pickers
also need to remember to bring lunch and something to drink, canteen
facilities are not available.
Employment preference is given to people who are likely to stay for
the duration of the harvest season.
Picking is paid on piece rates of between $2.20 and $4.00/kg. This
rate varies depending on how easy it is to pick the fruit and make a
Reasonable pickers should be able to pick 5-6kgs per hour. The average
competent picker can earn between $16.50 and $18.00 per hour. Shed work
and other tasks are paid by the hour. In July 2005 the adult wage is
$17.07 for working in the packing shed.
The pay week runs from Wednesday to Tuesday, with funds available on
or before Friday each week.
On the first day, before work can commence, all new employees are
asked to provide correct banking details and their tax file number.
Payment of wages is paid by electronic transfer to each
individual’s bank account. To ensure prompt payment and avoid
delays, it is most important to provide the correct banking details. If
they are not Australian citizens, prospective new employees will be asked
to show their passport with a visa that allows work in Australia .
All employees are required to undergo an induction before commencing
work, this covers general employment information and workplace health and
Work cannot be commenced without all correct personal details being
provided, passports checked where applicable and the induction completed,
this takes about 1 hour.
Daily Transport from Tumbarumba to the farm
The company provides a bus for daily transport for pickers from the Tumbarumba Caravan Park
to the farm and return. A small fee is charged for this. Packers are
required to provide their own transport as the hours are different to
that of pickers.