People tend to think that New Zealander got their nickname “Kiwis” from the kiwifruit! Sorry to disappoint you, but this nickname actually comes from a rare native bird, that also gave his name to the kiwifruit (formerly known as the Chinese Gooseberry, as it’s originating from China)! Now that everything is clear in your mind, let’s discover the picking of kiwifruit through the eyes of two experienced pickers, who accepted to share all their secrets about picking this delicious fruit.
If you wish to share your fruit picking experience among the community, please don’t hesitate to contact us, it will be a pleasure for us to do an interview about your experience!
Pick The World: Hello guys! We heard that you picked some kiwifruit last season In New Zealand. As the 2015 season just started, we are very impatient to learn more about your experience!
PTW: First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, so we get to know you better?
Gaetan: “ Hey! My name is Gaetan and my girlfriend is Fanny. We are 28 years old and we are originating from France. Back home we both were social workers. I spent 2 years in Australia on a working holiday visa. After this first experience, I came home and we decided to go to New Zealand with Fanny for another trip around the world.”
PTW: What brought you to do some fruit picking in the first place?
Gaetan: “I started fruit picking in Australia as it was the only way to extend my visa and also a good opportunity to save some money. When we decided to go to New Zealand, I wanted to do it again because I liked it and Fanny was keen on trying”.
PTW: What kind of experience did you have before you started kiwifruit picking?
Gaetan: “My previous experiences in fruit picking were in Australia, where I picked cherries and apples for one season each. We arrived in New Zealand mid October and started cherry picking at the end of November in Blenheim. From there we didn’t stop picking! We picked some more cherries in Central Otago (Alexandra and Cromwell), some pears and apples in Tasman (Motueka) and finally finished our picking trail with the famous kiwifruit!”
PTW: Let’s focus on your experience with kiwifruit picking, after all we are in New Zealand, the kiwifruit country! How did you hear about this job?
Gaetan & Fanny: “We found this job thanks to some friends who gave us the name of a few orchards, and then we drove around and met some managers. One of them was particularly friendly, was offering good rates and was keen to employ us. Of course, we said yes straight away!”
PTW: Was it difficult to find a job in kiwifruit picking? Did you have to book it in advance?
Gaetan & Fanny: “Finding a job has been pretty easy for us, probably because we started our search earlier than everybody else. We went for a first look around in the middle of March while we were still picking pears. Then we showed up at the kiwifruit orchard pretty much every two weeks until the boss told us our position was booked for sure.”
PTW: Can you tell us a bit more about the kiwifruit and the way to pick them?
Gaetan & Fanny: “It was an organic orchard growing only green kiwifruit, most of them on T-bars and they only had one block of canopy. The tricky part about kiwifruit is that you can’t pick them when it’s raining. At the first drops of rain we had to stop working. We spent a lot of time checking out the weather forecast, which was pretty accurate. It’s really good to know when it’s going to rain because when you have a short day, you can go all-in, work harder and still make decent money. And then you can rest and enjoy the rest of your day!”
 Note: They are 2 main types of kiwifruit commercially harvested: the green kiwifruit (mainly paid on contract) and the yellow or golden kiwifruit (mainly paid hourly because the skin is softer and it requires a more careful handling).
Kiwifruits are grown either on “T-bar” (single rows of kiwifruit vines are planted next to each other, and the worker work under the T-bar, on his own row) or under a “canopy” (the vines are all attached together in order to make a single big “roof” where workers usually work in team).
PTW: How long is the kiwifruit season going for?
Gaetan & Fanny: “As we were working in a small orchard the season lasted only a month, and we had every Sunday off. We were lucky to have just a few rainy days, so in total we picked around 22 to 25 days.”
PTW: Did you work on contract? In team? How much did you get paid?
Gaetan & Fanny: “We were working on contract. We started to pick individually, but later in the season we decided to work together as a couple, as we felt it was more efficient. We didn’t have to work in bigger teams like many other kiwifruit orchards do, especially in the North Island. We got paid 16$ per bin, plus a 2$ bonus per bin if we were staying until the end of the season.”
PTW: What “tools” or equipment do you need to pick kiwifruits?
Gaetan & Fanny: “We needed a picking bag, which was very similar to the bags we used for apples, and a few pair of gloves. You can pick bare hands but the hairs of the fruit are really irritating your skin and when you see how fast they destroy gloves you understand why you should be careful!”
PTW: Were you happy with your earnings?
Gaetan & Fanny: “At the two of us we were doing between 20-26 bins in a complete day of 8 hours (i.e. 160$ to 210$ per person and per day). It was quite good money per hour (between 20-26$/h) but at the end of the week it was not that much, as we had rarely complete days because of the rain. It was fine for us as it was the end of our picking marathon and we were happy to be home when it was raining!”
PTW: Did you find the job hard (mentally and/or physically)?
Gaetan & Fanny: “It was hard like every picking job but kiwifruit isn’t too complicated: there is no ladder work, no color picking, no work under the rain and you don’t have to be especially gentle with the fruit. But the bags get quickly heavy and if you are tall it’s not always really comfortable to pick them, as the T-bar and canopies are quite low. Overall the job is not too tiring, and we were not burning ourselves out.”
PTW: How was the atmosphere at work?
Gaetan & Fanny: “The atmosphere was fine, the boss and the tractor driver were easy going and it was mainly locals working there. Some of the other pickers were a little bit rude but it wasn’t too bad.”
PTW: Did you enjoy the job?
Gaetan & Fanny: “We enjoyed it because it was a good way to earn some extra cash at the end of the summer season, without having to push really hard on our body which didn’t have so much energy left after picking cherries and apples!”
PTW: Looking back at your experience, would you say that it is something you would do again? What are you plans now?
Gaetan & Fanny: “We are not sure if we will have any other opportunities to pick kiwifruits but if we do why not! Right now, we want to keep on picking for a while. We are quite experienced pickers and we are thinking of traveling to other countries around the world to do so!”
PTW: What advice would you give to the people who want to start doing this job?
Gaetan & Fanny: “Try to avoid orchards that have a lot of golden kiwifruit because you are going to get paid hourly. Unless you like to take your time while working, you should make better money getting paid on contract. Also, don’t forget to check the forecast every evening and every morning before work. And finally, have a lot of fun and enjoy your experience”.