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Aussie crops depending on school leavers ‘PickPacking’ their way around the country

Article Published on on Thurs 26 Nov 2020

With international backpacking no longer an option, a new initiative by social enterprise Thankful4Farmers is calling on school leavers to create an alternative rite-of-passage by PickPacking their way around the country for the adventure of a lifetime, while helping save the livelihoods of farmers facing unparalleled labour shortages as a result of COVID-19.

A dedicated Go and Pick website, launched today, is a one-stop information platform for 18-25 year olds to connect with employers, review job opportunities and a suite of support resources, including government relocation grants, Austudy benefits and more.

Thankful Founder and CEO, Kim McDonnell said: “There has been widespread public discussion about the potential impact of harvest labour shortage on Australia’s farmers and their crops, and the flow-on effects on availability and cost of fruit and veg for consumers.

Go And Pick aims to tackle these issues by tapping into new gap year options for Australian school leavers with the intention that, over time, the campaign will reduce Australian farmers’ long-term reliance on overseas and seasonal labour.

Ms McDonnell acknowledges that in the past fruit picking has been regarded the poor cousin to overseas gap year travel but says the tide is turning. “There are some fantastic opportunities for school-leavers including benefits and rewards plus it’s a wonderful way to meet new people, make some money, and travel around one of the most beautiful countries in the world”.

Sydney raised 19 year old, Guy Nicol, is currently at university in Canberra and looking to be a PickPacker to support his studies in environment and sustainability.

“I’ve just finished my first year at uni and I’d really like to get out into regional New South Wales and work at either a cherry or tomato farm as it is relevant to my degree. I’m currently researching accommodation and then I’ll be able to decide where to go. I’m really excited by the opportunity and what I will learn,” said Guy.

Discussions are currently in place to create labelling on the fruit and veg with QR codes that show the personal journey of the PickPacker and creating opportunities for proud PickPacker parents to share their child’s accomplishments.

“Ultimately we want our PickPackers to receive the acknowledgement their hard work deserves and to feel a strong sense of pride."

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