So we have spent the past 123 days living on the Zuk Farm on which we have had some of the best and probably some of the worst times of our lives but overall I will remember my time on the farm with fond memories and I’m sure I will miss my farm family absolutely loads.
I should probably start by explaining what we actually did on the farm first of all! When we first arrived we were just 3 ordinary pickers in the field so we spent our days following behind the Boom (which is an enormous machine with extendable conveyor belt arms extending out to each side) each on an individual row and checking each plant for Zucchinis as we walk down the rows. Now it sounds A LOT easier than it actually is especially at the beginning. We literally had to walk down the rows bent over double and even though we were eased into it by doing only a few hours it was extremely sore on our backs. Liam even did quite a few full days in his first week and he picked it up pretty quickly which was definitely noticed by Anna our boss. Luckily the boom operator Jimmy was a good lad and he played music out from it so it wasn’t too boring! He’s even a Leeds fan much to lads delight and he played plenty of ‘Marching on Together’! The hardest thing for me about being out in the field was needing to get up bright and early at the ridiculous hour of 6am! We had ridiculous get-ups to go with it too, including cut off socks for our forearms, a big straw hat and Liam even started wearing tights with shorts, just for practical purposes of course!! In the mornings the field was very cold and very wet, it was not a nice work environment at all and then in the afternoon it flipped the total opposite way as it was so hot and dry once the sun was up in the air. We dried off pretty quick of course but it was often so hot we were praying for the chill again. If that isn’t enough to stop you jumping up to get a job on a Zucchini farm then you also need to know that these horrible bushy plants that were a pain to look through for Zucchinis as it was, well they also stung you hence the socks on the arms, however when you are putting your face in and around these plants to have a good look you get a hell of a rash on your chin!
When the work picked up after a few weeks and there were more paddocks to pick Anna started up a ‘bucket team’ with the elite pickers on which I was actually put on as well, moving up the ranks! The bucket team didn’t have a boom picker we used buckets of course and put them on a ute. It was a much more peaceful and social environment as we were able to talk to each other while picking down the rows, although we did work a hell of a lot faster than when we were walking behind the boom!
As I said this was actually just at the start of our slog on the farm, not long after we had started it seemed like our hard work and determination had paid off as we were all picked for different jobs. James became the ‘shed boy’ so his responsibilities were to drive out in the ute to collect the full bins of zucchinis from the boom and then deliver them into the shed. He also had to sort them via a machine which filtered them through on a conveyor belt and then stack the boxes that were packed by the girls. It doesn’t sound like a difficult job but the shed is literally the bottleneck of the whole farm so it gets pretty hectic when its busy! I was also picked to go into the shed to become a packing girl, much to my delight as I always secretly hated bending over in the field all day especially with the buckets! My job was to pack the Zucchini’s by size and also to sort them on the ‘cups’ which was really hard at the beginning as the Zuk’s go so fast past you but by the end I was an absolute ninja on them! Towards the end of our time I also took on some extra roles in the shed and even began to do the same job as James despite it typically being a boys job as they couldn’t find a competent boy to do it! I can definitely say that it was the most physically demanding and challenging job ive ever had but I thoroughly enjoyed it and threw myself into it wholeheartedly! Liam had the biggest role change of all though and he became supervisor in the field. He had possibly the biggest amount of responsibility over all of us as he had to check that everyone was picking correctly and sometimes critique and even fire people. This was really difficult as of course we also have to live, eat and sleep in the same place as everyone else! He has done an absolutely fantastic job of it though, I’m really proud.
He did however have a bad experience of it pretty early on, anyone who knows Liam will know he absolutely hates confrontation so firing people was pretty difficult for him. At one point though the season went pretty quiet as the plants were dying off quicker than expected so Anna said that unfortunately Liam and the other supervisor Ashley had to pick 6 people to leave. They had pretty much decided who it would be when they were going to work however some jumped up little German picked this day to give Liam some gyp. He arrived on the very same day as us and I think he was always a bit annoyed that Liam had risen above him as he was arrogant and clearly believed he was better than everyone else. Now he gave Liam some backchat and told him to “f-ing find some small ones in there” i.e a small zucchini. Liam was absolutely furious of course and said immediately that he was fired and he had to leave right away!
Now because there were so many people leaving for some reason they were allowed to stay for an extra night as they had worked for that nights’ accommodation, this isn’t usually a problem but of course they had a few drinks and got a bit lairy keeping all of us up. This was when the rumour came to me that this German lad had apparently urinated in Liam’s work shoes!! I went straight to tell Liam and luckily James was in our room because he literally had to pin Liam down to stop him from going to wallop him!! We were all so incredibly angry but we didn’t want to jeopardise our position on the farm or in Australia so we just had to calm down and pretty much forget about it. In the end we got $30 compensation and his days were cut after Anna told him he had to pay us something. It still makes me pretty angry that someone could do that to Liam when was just doing a harder job that he didn’t get paid anymore for but at the end of the day he’s a silly jumped up little boy who got the sack and didn’t get his days whereas we are sat with plenty of money in our back pocket, all our regional work days and plenty of brilliant memories!
Onto the happier side of the farm now though! Our Zuk family! Literally the best part of the farm has been the amazing people that we have met and the laughs that we have had with them! Every afternoon when we finish in the field we would just sit around in the sun having a laugh and chatting. The boys would often crack on with some sport generally either a big game of cricket or football, we even had a few Zucchini Ashes Tests and a Zucchini World Cup played! Sometimes it felt like we were on a farm with a big bunch of kids which was brilliant because there were grown adults running around playing Manhunt, Hide&Seek and Bulldogs Charge!! We had a couple of trips to Townsville during the quiet period too which was pretty funny as we generally only got to leave the farm once a week on
a Thursday to do our shopping, so obviously when we were in T-Ville it was like setting us loose!! We’ve also had quite a few nights having some drinks down at the local Clare Club, which is basically just a small local working men’s club, nothing fancy but when it’s all there is you’ve got to settle!
Another thing we’ve had to do to keep ourselves focused and entertained is to work out! We were pretty lucky because the previous backpackers had bought a weights bench and some weights, the lads put in a bit of cash to get some extras but we had a good set up so the boys were on Operation Get Massive and the girls were on Abs workouts for Operation Get Trim haha!!
We got really close to everyone on the farm and of course we established a tight knit family, the girls on the farm became the V Club (I’ll let you use your imagination to work that one out!) and the boys decided to call themselves the L.E.L – League of Extraordinary Length hahahaha! Liam was the Vice-Chairman alongside Jimmy the President, I’m sure you can tell how bored we got sometimes!
We also had a few birthdays on the farm including my own and the lads as well! They were all celebrated in a variety of weird and wonderful ways! We had a standard party for two of the girls birthdays which to be honest didn’t go on that late as we all have to be up so early for work and most of us are usually in bed by 7.30pm! But we got a telling off from Anna about the curfew and drinking etc so for the next few birthdays and leaving nights we did things a little bit differently! We had plenty of BBQ’s, a tea party with cakes, a quiz night and even a farm sports day for the semi-professional footballer on the farm Sam haha! Liam actually injured himself during the relay race on the sports day as the clumsy oaf tripped over his own foot as he was hopping along! It’s still swollen 2 weeks later though!
Now the hardest part of the farm is saying goodbye to the people that we have come to feel so at home with. We already had to do it when a chunk of our group left back in July; Vik, Flo and Joe the best Germans I’ve ever met, especially Vik! It felt very strange not having them around anymore as they were such a big part of our group dynamic. Obviously our leaving the farm was hard too but it hasn’t hit us just yet because we know we will see the majority of our friends again in just a few days on Magnetic Island when we all have one big final blow-out together! I have however met people that I genuinely want to keep in touch with and definitely want to see them again so hopefully it doesn’t have to be goodbye forever!
During our time on the farm we’ve decided on and planned the next stages of our trip and honestly I am so excited to be donning our backpacks again (Yes, the suitcase is gone!) and to get back on the road and see some more amazing things! First up is our Whitsundays trip and then onto Maggie Island and Cairns before we roadtrip it through the outback to Uluru! After that its onto Japan and back to South-East Asia to explore it a little bit more!
(Some picture credit to Nathan who was on the farm for a short time!)