Emptying a field or orchard of its crop is a physically demanding task that has long provided the backpack worker with wages.
It depends on nature. Each crop has a season of planting, growing and harvesting. Harvesting time is when backpack labour is often needed. Some work may also be available after the crop has been picked: spring time bulb packing in Holland is a popular example.
Work can be found in Europe through the spring, summer and autumn, while Australia has work all year in some areas. Dates are difficult to pin down exactly, never treat them as written in stone; the weather delays, moves forward or can ruin crop picking.
Try France, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Norway, USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some countries offer better opportunities than others. Without foreign labour, Australian farmers report they would have difficulty bringing in the crops, while, in Germany, mechanization limits the chance to earn Deutchemarks. Elsewhere in Europe backpackers will have to compete with hardworking eastern Europeans itinerant labourers.
There are many crops you may find yourself picking, both fruit and vegetables: grapes, apples, peas, peaches, citrus fruit, cherries, apricots, hops, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, tobacco, plums, kiwi fruit, avocados, pears, oranges, wheat, maize, nuts, pumpkins, melons, nectarines, etc.
Each crop has a different technique and and will test different parts of the body. Some fruit will require lots of ladder work, while others involve constant bending down. Other considerations include weight: there's a big difference between melons and cherries, for instance.
A strong back, arms and legs, plus lots of stamina. Agricultural work is physically demanding and muscles will ache until used to it. At the end of your stint in a field you will certainly be much fitter.
The more you pick the more you earn - piece rates are the order of the day with agricultural work. Don't expect to get rich, the job will keep you fed and housed overseas for a while - probably in a tent.
The seasonal nature of crop picking makes it difficult to arrange work in advance, though it is possible. The best way to find work is to get on your bike to harvesting regions and ask around, or pick up the phone, flick through yellow pages, and phone the farmers.
Take some gloves for the cold, a sun hat and sunscreen for the hot, and something soothing to rub in wherever it's sore.
Work Your Way Around the World devotes a lot of attention to this subject. It gives advice on finding both legal and illegal work and includes maps of harvest areas, wage rates and likely dates. The latest edition is available from amazon.co.uk
Image courtesy vamapaull