Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Pickers need places to stay

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Richmond River Independent

There are plenty of blueberries to be picked at Mountain View farm near Tabulam but not enough accommodation for the pickers.

Estate agent Amanda Johnson desperately needs places in Bonalbo, Tabulam, Drake and Mallanganee for the visiting pickers.

Richmond River Independent 28 October 2020, Pickers story
In a share house at Bonalbo are pickers Kaito Mori from Japan, Pamela Ardeaga from Peru, Charlie Vahey from Ireland, Spencer Sewell from Sydney, Bonalbo resident Amanda Johnson, John Weasley from Thailand and Loana Solis from Peru. Photo: Susanna Freymark

“They need places until the end of the season which is likely to be end of December,” Amanda said.

At Amanda’s home in Bonalbo, eight pickers share the house, some of them picking blueberries for the first time.

Charlie Vahey from Ireland is loving the country life and came from Sydney to pick at Mountain View farm.

“It’s like covid doesn’t exist here,” he said comparing the restrictions of city life.

It’s Charlie’s first time picking and he now drives a truck at the farm and is paid an hourly rate.

Everyone is friendly and his only gripe was the lack of phone signal in Bonalbo.

Spencer Sewell lives in Sydney and headed north to make money. His grandparents live in the area.

For John Weasley from Thailand, the working conditions at Mountain View are a big improvement on the farm he worked at in Coffs Harbour where he said they weren’t even given water to drink.

He spent months working at a jam factory in Port Macquarie too.

Pamela Ardeaga from Peru had previously worked at a gelato shop in Sydney and part of her visa conditions included farm work so she came to Bonalbo to pick blueberries.

They all agreed that the harder you worked, the more you earned.

Top pickers can earn$200–$400 a day.

Amanda said pickers paid $140 a week for accommodation which included internet use.

“Everyone is covid-safe and there are strict protocols for staff recruitment at the farm.”

This means everyone is tested regularly and must remain covid-free.

Richmond River Independent 28 October 2020

Despite barely being able to move in the kitchen, having pickers in the house was a lot of fun, she said.

“They become like family and they get to share the Australian experience.” Anyone who is able to offer accommodation for pickers can contact Amanda on 0457 185 588.

This article appeared in the Richmond River Independent, 28 October 2020.

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