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Working on a Farm in Kent

by Marian Bridik

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Farm Work in the UK


Being a student, a person needs to look for summer jobs, to keep up with the expenses for school and fun activities. This task is not always easy, especially when you are studying at an American branch university and you have to pay tuition as well.

Getting a summer job obviously rules out getting a job in your home Eastern European country as that would pay for only a couple of beers the most.

So here we go, approaching the winter and thinking about the summer. There are a few agencies in England, most of them under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) where we too want get in, as this is happening just before we enter the EU (at the time of writing).

We send off the applications to Concordia and wait. The waiting continues and so we call the office. The lady is a little bit hesitant about what we are studying and where, but we just keep talking that we need the summer farm job just like nothing in life at the moment. In two weeks we get the workcards, happily jumping all around and celebrating the victory, so far.

From the papers it seems just fine, a small farm in Kent, all in all we are supposed to be twelve people there, and so we should get on. Having previous experience and knowing that the less people there is, the better you have a relationship with the farmer, we are quite content with what we got and start preparing for the trip.

We arrive in London, get on the train to Kent and unload all the backs in a small village. Start calling the farmer and he picks us up just as promised in the papers. He seems a nice guy, looks a bit worried. Do not know if it is after the look at us or something wrong with his plants. But we get sorted out and arrive at the farm.

It is quite a surprise, the farm is big; farmer's house on the right, packhouse and refrigerator on the left. There are three caravans for us, the farm workers to be, and as we are the first ones to arrive, we get to choose. What luck. They are all fine at the end.

We keep asking for work right at the beginning, not to make an impression, as you really need to work picking strawberries, but we need to make some money. And the farm seems just right for doing so, the farmer is a nice 50 something guy with his wife and two kids. Later on as we progress with the worker, he gives us further work in the afternoon and pays handsomely. It is just a couple of hours, but after the week it makes a nice addition to our pay. We are happy.

The work itself is not easy. Picking strawberries requires an early get up, waiting for a little bit of sun so that the dew gets off, and you just keep moving in your lane, with your holder and boxes for the whole day. Moving in and out of the field to the truck where the supervisors are standing and taking in the full boxes, punching your card of the first class and second class boxes, checking the produce and how you have separated them.

At the beginning it was a mess with the supervisors. Too older English ladies and they were just giving us a hard time. But it kind of sorts itself out with the time spent at the fields and at the end, we were friends. They took us to a shopping centre and around the town for fish and chips.

It was a nice summer, with lots of hard work, but it paid ok in terms of money and personal relations. We still have friends from the time we picked strawberries, a couple of farmers friends have already visited Slovakia, and in return, we have showed them around over here.

Further Information
If you are looking for a farm job now, there are several resources to use, among those is Concordia.

Image courtesy Meghan Morgavan