FIND A JOB?
The most common and easiest way to start in the industry is through entry level jobs, mostly called seasonal jobs. Seasonal jobs, as the term implies, are jobs that change during every season of the year.
To better understand what seasonal jobs are, it’s important to understand a bit about general horticulture, so you can be prepared when a certain job opportunity arises.
Most plants and fruits have a seasonal growth, meaning that different phases of growth happen throughout the year. For some, summertime is the picking season, where all fruits are ripe and ready to be taken from the tree. For other species, summer is time for thinning and getting prepared for picking. Winter is time for pruning for most of them.
You can read more about horticulture in New Zealand here.
The main seasonal jobs at any orchard growing any species of fruits, vegetables or flowers can be summarised as:
Working in the horticultural industry is almost always a fun and enjoyable experience in New Zealand; not to say that most jobs don’t require any specific knowledge or previous experience.
You will be trained directly in the field, with people who love doing what they do in a communicative environment, often building life-long friendships with people from all around the globe. You will find people from all nationalities, including New Zealanders, working by your side.
As general rule, once you arrive at the orchard, you will receive induction training to perform any tasks you will be performing that day. You will also be allocated to a group of people who will do the same task as you. All groups will be then be split into the different aisles of the orchard to start the job. Each group usually has a supervisor, who will make sure you and your group are performing the job correctly and in good time. Since orchards are huge, a fast pace of work is usually required in order to guarantee a good area of coverage per day.
As mentioned before, New Zealand has a huge demand for entry-level workers in the horticultural industry. Most of these jobs don’t require previous experience, but they most often have other requirements.
You can find more about basic requirements to get a job by clicking here.
Nurseries are places where plants and fruits are cultivated from seeds to a ready to be planted stage in their life. Nursery plants are very delicate and usually grown in indoor facilities in order to keep a higher quality control over their production. In the nursery, professionals make sure seeds grow stronger and avoid contracting common diseases.
Nurseries have a great responsibility through the whole lifecycle of any plant, as it’s during this phase that plants build their immunological system, being able to grow stronger and have a long lifespan.
As well as other jobs in the horticultural industry, nursery jobs are always in high demand in New Zealand, considering the area planted is always growing – and some trees are replaced every year – this is an ever-growing field of work and open to receiving anyone willing to build a professional and fruitful career in the horticultural industry.
Most planting processes nowadays are done by machinery with a low amount of human interaction; although for some more delicate fruits it’s still done manually, such as strawberries, cherries, and other smaller plants.
Planting is a very specific job, usually being only offered to skilled people who are trained to do the job. If you are not qualified in this field, usually a primary industry qualification, it’s very unlikely that you will find a job in this position in the industry in New Zealand, but of course you can find some entry level jobs that will enable you to receive training and perform these jobs later on your professional journey.
If you already have a qualification in the industry and want to join the New Zealand primary industry, we suggest you get in contact with Horticulture NZ or Primary ITO as first steps towards finding what you are looking for.
In order to grow strong and healthy, from roses to fruit trees, almost all plants need pruning from time to time.
Pruning is the process of removing dead, damaged, diseased, unhealthy or week branches/stems in order to help the plant to grow and produce flowers or fruits. In most cases, not pruning can ruin the plant, leading it to die or simply not flourish as it should.
This process is usually done throughout the whole lifecycle of the plant, as new branches grow. Pruning also increases air flow and sunlight passing through the plant, resulting in a healthier plant.
Although pruning jobs are easily found all over New Zealand for all kinds of fruits, it’s important to note that this process can damage or even kill the tree if not done correctly. Therefore, a supervisor will often follow you during your first days on the job to ensure you are not doing anything wrong and you are encouraged to ask if you have any doubts about what to cutout on specific trees. Eventually, you will be able to easily identify by yourself which parts of the plant should be removed.
The job itself is not as physically hard as thinning or picking, although you have to be mindful that most trees are at least 1.80 metres high, which means you will have to keep your arms raised up for most of your working day. You will be mostly using secateurs and loppers to do the job, but more experienced workers may also use chainsaws depending on the size of the tree and the thickness of the branch to be removed.
Have you ever wondered how fruits in the supermarket almost always look great: fresh and healthy? Thinning is probably the main reason why you rarely see poorly shaped fruits in stores and why they all look beautiful.
First of all, it’s important to highlight that the thinning process is not applicable to all fruit trees. The process can be also skipped by some contractors, depending on how they’ve decided to cultivate that specific orchard.
The thinning process can be separated into two categories, flower/branch thinning and fruit thinning. They are both similar to pruning but thinning consists of the selective removal of healthy parts of the plant in order to create space and strengthen-up the whole tree, instead of removing dead/unhealthy branches as seen in the pruning process. Thinning helps trees to produce higher quality fruits and improves their resistance to natural forces, such as wind, heavy rain or snow. Both branch and fruit thinning can be done at the same time, depending on each methodology used by the contractor.
During flower/branch thinning, old branches along with undesired branches that may damage good branches during their growth are cut-out of the limbs. This will help the tree grow stronger, focusing its energy on high-quality, desired branches.
In a similar way, fruit thinning consists of removing unhealthy/defective fruit buds from the tree, guaranteeing consistency in the product, helping the tree to focus its energy on good buds, as well as reducing the branch’s overall weight to avoid it breaking up when the fruit grows to its maximum size.
The thinning process is undertaken multiple times during the growth period to make sure only high-graded fruits will be available when the time to harvest arrives.
Each contractor and each fruit have their own characteristics, which makes thinning a somewhat specialised process. Despite this, it’s a demanding job that requires multiple people working on it. Jobs in the thinning process are easily found with no experience required, as the contractor will give the personnel exact instructions on where and what must be cutout of the trees. Given the time and experience, anyone will be able to identify what is a good/bad branch or fruit bud.
As well as the pruning process, due to some trees being about 1.80 m from the ground, thinning can be quite exhausting work where you will have to keep your arms up for a long period of time and it requires a certain ability with tools such as secateurs and loppers.
The final stage inside an orchard, picking is the act of taking the fruit off the tree to be transported to the packing house. To optimise the collection, the contractor will usually provide you with a ‘wearable basket’, which is similar to a backpack but fitted to your chest/tummy, where you go from fruit tree to fruit tree alongside a group to collect all fruits in the orchard, aisle by aisle.
Easier said than done, fruit picking can be quite physical work, as mentioned before, since most fruits are elevated at about 1.80 m high from the ground, and therefore you will have to keep your arms up for a long period. What makes picking a bit more physical than pruning or thinning is carrying the basket. A basket full of fruit can weigh from 6kg to 24kgs before having to be emptied. This means up to 24kgs strapped onto your torso!
Of course, most contractors will consider your body type and strength before handing you a basket, so if you are not physically fit, it’s most likely you will carry a 6kg or 10kg basket, which may not be that heavy but gets quite exhausting after a few hours of work.
Once the basket is full, all you have to do is go to the drop-off location, empty it and continue collecting from where you left off.
Picking jobs are the most demanding job inside an orchard. Once the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked, there’s not much time to take them off the tree. If the full harvest is not met within a certain timeframe, it’s most likely that many fruits will be disposed of or sold at a cheaper price, which doesn’t suit most producers.
Fruit picking jobs usually last for about three months for most fruits, sometimes more, sometimes less, and are always in high demand all over the country for all sorts of fruits, making this position an easy gateway if you are looking for your first job in the industry or to simply work as a seasonal employee for a short period of time, plus they usually don’t require any previous experience.
Once fruits are picked their lifespan countdown starts. Every process now should be correctly timed, so the fruit doesn’t go rotten before reaching the supermarket shelves. This simple fact is what makes the packing process one of the most important in the fruit lifecycle.
Packing is the process of preparing all fruits harvested from various orchards to be exported, cold stored or sold in bulk to supermarkets and stores around the country.
The process, usually carried out in a packhouse, includes placing fruits into trays, labelling, strapping, scanning, storing at a cool storage facility, and more. Packing is a complex process that requires a great number of people to be involved as well as supervisors to make sure the whole process runs smoothly, without damaging fruits and wasting their precious lifespan.
As a large number of staff are involved, New Zealand has a huge demand for short term employees in packhouses. Depending on the packhouse size, over 200 jobs are available during the packing season. From the actual packers to tray fillers, machine/forklift operators and even truck drivers, joining a packing house usually doesn’t require previous experience. But it does require you to be timely with your job application, since once the positions are filled, it’s unlikely they will need more staff until the next season.