Working up a sweat - Part 1November 10, 2017 in New Zealand
We had a meeting with someone hiring for a kiwi orchard. He invited us into his house for our "interview". We're tall, so that's a benefit. We were told we would earn a piece rate of $7.75/kg and a fast picker could do 50kg in a day. Sounds good, right?! Soon after us another couple came in for their interview. We stuck around to hear their questions too.
We showed up at the farm the following morning. The farmer showed us the ropes. You pick kiwi flowers and drop them into a bag tied around your waist. The flowers are harvested for their pollen, which is sold to other farms to pollinate female (fruit-bearing) trees. In fact, this orchard had purely male trees and produced no fruit at all (no free kiwi fruit for us). Ripe flowers are white and soft, which means pollen has been produced. But they are still closed, otherwise 95% of pollen might already have fallen out or removed by bees, don't get stung! ;)
We kept track of how fast we were picking. We were only earning half of minimum wage! Maybe it was a steep learning curve, so we decided to give it one more chance. Because of the piece rate, you could set your own hours. There were no rules on where to go, so people were crisscrossing looking for the easiest to pick flowers. Even though we were picking as fast as we could, we didn't make much progress on our harvest. We weren't desperate for money, just trying to balance the budget we had set. So we decided to move on and try somewhere else, where our time might be more productive. All other people had already quit on the first day...
We told the farmer, who turned out not to be our "boss". He explained that the pollen mill actually hires the farmhands. They hold the strings and pay the farmer per weight of flowers, minus penalties for poor quality. He didn't have any sway over wages and totally understood our position. We had a nice chat with him about permaculture. He was applying some principles, planned to implement others, and would fully apply it for his home garden.Read more