On the path of a meaningful life

Texts, photographs and videos by Claire B.

Sustainable buildling and light habitats. to transform the act of building and rethink our relationship with living things.
Transition tales. towards an ethical, sustainable and united future.
Travel dispatches. discovering the world between solo journeys and life experiences.
Creative approach. photographic work and videos.

30 June 2018

Carrots contact

Picking up vegetables during Tasmanian autumn and feeling a little out of step.
Forth, Tasmania © Claire Blumenfeld
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For the past few days it has been getting very cold in the morning. The chilly air pierces my hands and feet, which the gloves and boots cannot keep warm. I watch the evolution of the sunrise from the corner of my eye hoping for a sudden warming of the atmosphere. But it takes several hours for the atmosphere to warm up just a few degrees. Since the end of April, I have been working at Premium Fresh. A vegetable farm ten minutes from Devonport. Three teams of about ten people take care of hand picking the different vegetables that the farm produces. The team I am on picks up carrots, rhubarb and chard. Sometimes we go help the other teams who take care of broccoli, brussels sprouts, leek and beets. The name of my team is Bunching Crew because we make “bunches”. Carrot bunches, rhubarb bunches and chard bunches. With elastic bands. Red for carrots and rhubarbs and yellow for chard.

The team atmosphere is strange. Not very friendly but not horrible either. I do not talk much. The majority of the team is Taiwanese. Six Taiwanese, two Tasmanians and me. A Frenchwoman lost in the middle of it all. Two Japanese were present during my first days but alas they have left since. The Taiwanese people already know each other and seemingly have little desire to connect with me. Apart from two or three people, I have no interaction with the rest. On the Tasmanian side, the supervisor and a guy in his thirties have a level of conversation that is not high enough for me to really want to join in. So I focus on making my bunches. Nine to twelve carrots per bundle, depending on the size. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… etc. And this goes on all day. Twenty five bunches form a pile. The bunch arrangement system was implemented by James, the supervisor. This allows him to quickly count how many carrots or other veggies we have harvested. Every morning the numbers fall: 3000 carrots, 500 rhubarbs and 300 chard to harvest today. Sometimes we only harvest carrots all day. The carrots we harvest are small, fine and fragile carrots, “Dutch carrots”. We harvest them with the stem and leaves. All damaged or abnormally shaped carrots should be removed from the bunches. It is recommended to make bunches with homogeneous carrot lengths. Some of the carrots reach ten centimeters but most of them are around five to seven centimeters. They taste a little sweeter than normal carrots and are sold a little more expensive in supermarkets.

The work is nothing very complicated. It is even very simple and the rhythm is calm (most of the time). We start at seven in the morning and usually finish at four pm. If we have finished collecting all orders for the day before four o’clock, it is either possible to return home, or take advantage of the remaining time to weed the fields of the chards overgrown with wild flowers. The job isn’t really physical either. Sitting in the ground all day is nothing tiring apart from a certain languor in the legs. With the exception of weeding which is really not a pleasant job. The work at Premium Fresh has nothing to do with the stress of my previous work as a raspberry supervisor in Costa. But still, I am bored. I can not stand repeatability and since there is no one to talk to, I have a hard time finding motivation to do my hundreds bunches per hour. Monotony kills me. And although I understand that some people may find the job relaxing (for the spirit), I find that it lacks challenge a little. The job is not interesting enough to last all day.

Some of the Taiwanese on the team have been there for months. The oldest team member has been there for 10 months !! Almost a year spent collecting carrots. I can’t help but find it a bit meaningless. I know that most Taiwanese people are there to make money (the salary in Taiwan is ridiculously low) but since the work at Premium Fresh is only paid $ 22.86 per hour (less than the minimum wage of $ 23.53), I don’t find that working at Premium Fresh is the best job to save money. Maybe they stay for the quiet and easy side of the job?

For my part, in mid-April, while the work at Costa in raspberries started to decrease, the end of the season being near, I looked for another job. I applied to the small ski resorts dotting the Australian Cordillera for the winter season 2018. A positive response for Mount Buller, the third largest ski resort in Australia, enchanted me but since the winter season did not beginning until late June, I was left with two months to wait. So I had to find another job and the only remaining opportunity in April in Tasmania was in the harvesting vegetables business. I was also missing about 20 working days to complete my total of 88 farm days required to obtain a second one-year visa to Australia. Premium Fresh therefore turned out to be my only possibility.

After two months of work at Premium Fresh, I am not unhappy to finish it. The job allowed me to save some money and especially to spend a little more time in Tasmania. Thanks to this I was able to continue exploring the island during my rest days. But the repetitiveness of the work and the strange sensation of feeling a little apart from the team made the experience very average. So after two months spent in the fields, I think it is more than time to turn to something else. 

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