Aged 17-25 and want to work on a farm? Here’s how!

Thinking about a career in agriculture or just want to work on a farm but unsure where to start? AgCAREERSTART might just be the answer!

Designed to open the door for 17-25 year olds, this unique gap year program provides participants with a paid farm job, a $4,500 training and engagement bursary and a dedicated support team. Best of all, you will join a network of other young people just like you!

With applications now open for 2024, Australian Farmers caught up with the program manager Kayla Evans to get the lowdown on applying and what you need if you get in.

Participants Bethia Harley and Arian Tolomei with their colleague on a grain and sheep farm in WA.

What types of farms could I work on? If there’s a primary industry that interests you, chances are we can get you a placement. Maybe a grain or cotton farm, or perhaps you like animals and want to work on a sheep property, there’s also horticulture (fruit and vegetables) and even aquaculture. The program has access to an extensive array of farmers across the country, so you just have to decide what sounds most exciting to you.

What else do I need to figure out before applying? You need to have a good idea how far from home you’re willing to move. It is a national program so we can send you anywhere! Some farms are remote, while others are near regional centres or even cities. To apply, you need to provide an 800-word statement of intent or 5-minute video along with your resume/cv.

Lucy Cole moved from Adelaide to work on Tipperary Station in the NT.

I’m so interested in farming but have never worked on one before. Do I need previous experience? Absolutely not! This program is designed to provide a pathway for young people who have no experience. The number one criterion we look for in your application is a willingness to give it a go. If you’ve not worked on a farm before, you might need a hand figuring out which kind of a farm will be best for you. If that’s the case, reach out to the team at agcareerstart@nff.org.au.

I’m worried about moving to another state and being so far from home. What happens if I get homesick? Can I visit home? Homesickness is a natural part of life and everyone who moves out of home experiences homesickness to a degree. We offer pastoral support, so there’s always someone to talk to, and you will be well connected to your peers in the program through social media groups, we run webinars for chatting, and we will connect participants who are located close by. You can go visit home on a weekend or take leave. Overcoming homesickness is about finding ways to feel comfort in your new environment, so we encourage you to explore new local home by participating in sport or joining other local community groups.

Some of the 2023 cohort attended GrainGrowers’ Innovation Generation conference. Attending industry events is part of the experience.

Will the farm have mobile reception and wifi? That is location dependent as regional connectivity is not always reliable. However, most times you will at least have wifi where you are living and at the main farmhouse.

Will accommodation be provided? It is not a requirement for host farmer to provide accommodation, but many do. In most cases, the host farmers who don’t have accommodation help their participant find somewhere to live.

How much will I be paid? All our participants are paid at or above award wages and are paid in a full-time capacity. We strongly encourage you to check out the Pastoral or Horticulture awards for an indication of what your remuneration will be based on your age.

2022 participant Benjamin Surgeoner on a dairy farm in Victoria. He has finished the program, but continues to be employed on the farm this year.

Do I get time off for weekends or holidays? Yes! Every workplace is different – some do Monday to Friday, others use a roster system, but you will definitely have downtime to do as you please.

What is the bursary all about? All participants get a $4,500 training and engagement bursary to draw down on during their time in the program. This can be spent on any kind of upskilling, such as short courses and licenses, and can also be spent on travel to industry events and conferences. In the past, participants have used it on things like a low stress stock handling course or a first aid course.

Luke Spasaro spent his placement working in a vertical farm in Sydney.

I don’t have a car! Is this a problem? We strongly encourage participants to have or be working towards their provisional licence at a minimum. We also encourage participants to have their own vehicle if they are intending to work in a regional or remote location, and to also consider the type of vehicle and the environment they might be living in.

What happens if something goes wrong on farm? All participants have access to pastoral support through from the AgCAREERSTART team and there is a 24/7 number to call if something goes wrong on farm. The team will also be in touch regularly to make sure you are having a happy and safe experience on farm. If something does go wrong, there is help to transition you off the farm or find an alternative placement.

After the year is up can I stay on the farm? Yes! It’s our goal to help our participants secure long term employment if that’s what they want, but participants will also receive support from the program for other options.

The team who run the program and provide pastoral care to participants: Stefanie Blake, Chloe Smart, Kayla Evans and Haylee Murrell.

Yay, I’ve been accepted! What do I need to bring when I move to the farm? Every workplace is different and it depends on the farm. Most farms will provide you with a uniform shirt when you start and will typically provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like goggles or gloves. You will most likely need to bring covered work shoes like boots and jeans or other workwear. We provide a packing list as part of your on-boarding. It’s also important to pack some things to make you feel comfortable, such as photos, bedding or even your favourite ramen noodles. Pets are considered on a case-by-case basis and in agreement with the host farmer.

Ready to apply? Head over to the AgCAREERSTART website to find out more and apply. Participant applications close 15 October. Host farmer applications are also now open.

Host farmer Gavin Dalbroi with participant Julian Craven on a cotton farm in NSW.

Stacey Davidson

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