2023/24 THE ORCHARD KEEPERS // FRUIT CREW VOLUNTEERING
Memorandum of Understanding
Please read this page first, then CLICK HERE TO APPLY FOR FRUIT CREW.
About the farm
The Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op (HOFC) is a collaboration of diverse organic farmers who lease land on a single farm in Harcourt. It is a busy working farm with a small-scale dairy, organic market garden, fruit tree nursery, bush food patch, and Grow Great Fruit, which teaches organic fruit growing online.
The farm is a workplace for many people. We take biosecurity seriously and ask that when visiting the farm, please note the following:
- Do not bring dogs (not even on a lead, or kept in your car).
- If you have visited other farms (particularly other farms with livestock), please be sure to clean your shoes thoroughly or, better yet, use different shoes. We want to protect Tess’s dairy herd from Foot and Mouth Disease as this can have devastating consequences (like potentially having to cull the herd)!
- The risk of Queensland Fruit Fly is real. Please do not bring uncut fruit or vegetables onto the property as it could pose an infection risk.
Volunteering with the Fruit Crew
Volunteering days for the 2023/24 season are Wednesdays and Thursdays. We are an LGBTIQ+ friendly team, as is the rest of the HOFC crew. We also welcome folks of all abilities and neurotypes, so please let us know if there are any accommodations we can make for you.
Here’s how the volunteer days will work for Fruit Crew members:
- 7.45 am Arrive and get ready for the day
- 8 am – 8.30 am Skills + theory session (see the program outline below)
- 8.30 am – 10 am Working together
- 10 am – 10.30 am Morning tea (provided)
- 10.30 am – 1 pm Working together
- 1 pm – 1.45 pm BYO shared lunch for both morning and afternoon crew
- 1.45 pm – 2 pm Task induction for anyone who hasn’t been on the morning shift, or if we’re switching jobs
- 2 pm – 3.30 pm Working together
- 3.30 pm – 3.50 pm Afternoon tea (provided)
- 3.50 pm – 5.30 pm Working together
You are welcome to ask as many questions as you like and please let us know if there is something in particular you would like to learn about.
Want to volunteer but can’t manage Fruit Crew times? Please fill out this form (there’s a question at the end about casual volunteering) and we’ll discuss options.
Day-to-day work may be repetitive (and, dare we say it, monotonous…). Thinning, picking, and sorting fruit are not jobs that you do once and move on to something else. We’ll try to keep things interesting and diverse and to give everyone the chance to try different jobs, but be prepared for the fact that you might find yourself doing the same job for multiple shifts!
One of the main benefits of a skills-based course like this is that it gives you a real-life farming experience. And the truth is, it can be quite mundane sometimes. But it’s also true that some of the most interesting conversations happen when you’re working side-by-side with people. Farming can be very isolating when you’re doing it alone, but working with a team can create lovely opportunities for connection.
Over the season the morning skills sessions will cover all of the following topics. Some topics may be repeated multiple times, or talked about on the Wednesday and then again on the Thursday, but sometimes they won’t (it depends what needs doing that week and who’s there). Some topics will be a mix of both theory and prac on the same day; sometimes we’ll do some theory and then move onto another job. Again, this will be responsive to the season, the participants, and the needs of the trees.
Put simply, the more you attend, the more you’ll learn!
- Compost spreading
- Making biochar (including FREE attendance at our workshop on October 29)
- Worm farms and compost tea (including FREE attendance at our workshop on October 29)
- Fertigation (applying liquid fertiliser through the irrigation system)
- Pump maintenance
- Irrigation system set-up and maintenance
Pest and disease prevention and management:
- Queensland Fruit Fly
- Earwigs and weevils
- Understorey management
- Organic certification
- Record keeping
- Sorting and grading fruit
Health and safety on the farm
Being a working farm, there are many risks and hazards, including snakes, heavy machinery, sun exposure, and uneven terrain. While on the farm, we all take individual and collective responsibility for each other’s safety.
- Installing Slack (team communications app) on your phone so you can participate in the farm’s risk management and communications system.
- Wearing sturdy closed-toe footwear.
- Wearing clothing that will protect you from the elements, i.e., long-sleeved shirts on hot days.
- Managing your heat exposure risk with sunscreen, a hat, and a water bottle.
- Keeping your mobile phone with you at all times. In case of an injury or snake bite you can stay where you are and call us or 000 if required.
- Reporting any near misses or observed hazards. This includes sighting of any snakes on the property.
Induction will include the following:
- Property orientation (e.g., common areas, toilets & washing facilities, orchard areas).
- Showing you where the First Aid kit is.
- Going through the HOFC Fire Plan.
- Providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) where required.
- Explaining processes and procedures.
- Making you aware of the risks involved with any activity, or with machinery and equipment you’ll be using or around.
How to get here
We are at 69 Danns Rd, Harcourt. There is a Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op property sign at our entrance, then a long driveway to the farm carpark. The speed limit on the driveway is 25km/hr, so please observe this so you don’t create dust or bother the cows.
You will come to a big green shed with a ‘Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op’ sign. Please park in the carpark here, and do not drive beyond this car park. The blue shed is Tess’s dairy – please do not knock on the door or park in front of the blue buildings. Make sure you leave plenty of space so she can drive her vehicle into her shed. Please also don’t park where your car is blocking the sliding shed door.
- We are farming as part of a co-operative, and we are only one of four enterprises on site. There are other farmers busy doing their work and cows can be found fenced off in areas by electric fencing. If you are volunteering with us, stay on the orchard part of the property or in the common areas (you’ll be shown these).
- We have composting toilets on-site. There is a preference that these are used for solids only. If you are comfortable to squat or stand behind a tree for wee this is great but we totally understand if you are not comfortable with this.
- We encourage you to share your experience on social media (please tag us) but please don’t share pics of the other farming enterprises without checking with those businesses first.
After you apply to join Fruit Crew, we’ll get back to you by email and confirm your place. We’ll send instructions on how to get to the farm, and where to park. We’ll include a free code for you to sign up for the Biochar, Compost Tea & Worm Farm workshops on Sunday, 29 October.
We’ll also send an invitation to our induction day on Wednesday, 25 October, starting at 7.45 a.m. The day will start with a get-to-know-you cuppa and chat, and then we’ll explain the following:
- Bathrooms, staff room (“the lunchbox”).
- Risk management, First Aid Kit.
- Make sure everyone has the Slack app on their phone and is on the right channels.
- How the program will work.
- Then, we’ll get started with our first Skills and Theory session (on thinning), and then get to work.
As a participant in The Orchard Keepers (OKs) Fruit Crew program,
I agree to
- Do my best to attend on the days I’ve indicated throughout the season.
- Let the Orchard Keepers know if I can’t attend a planned session.
- Record my hours on the timesheet supplied each visit.
- Join the Orchard Keepers Slack (online app) group.
- Receive the Orchard Keepers newsletter and be added to the Orchard Keepers email database.
- Take responsibility for the safety of myself and those around me at all times.
I understand that
- The tasks are most likely to include but are not limited to thinning, picking, sorting, packing, and summer pruning.
- I have the right to ask the Orchard Keepers questions about farming methodologies and processes (we would love you to!).
- I can receive fruit in exchange for my labour if I sign up for a Pick Your Own (PYO) Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share and do the recommended number of shifts (5 half-day shifts = 50kg PYO-CSA). PYO-CSA.
- I may not bring dogs or other pets onto the property.
- There are risks associated with Queensland Fruit Fly and I will not bring any fruit or vegetables onto the farm, or will take away any items that could possibly be infected.
- Farms are hazardous work places and care must be taken to avoid injury. Observed hazards and “near misses” must be reported to one of the Orchard Keepers team.
- I need to keep my mobile phone with me at all times so that I am contactable or can contact someone if there is an emergency.
The Orchard Keepers in turn agree to
- Be understanding and flexible to agreed availability.
- Provide a safe and inclusive work environment.
- Communicate regularly with Fruit Crew members.
- Commit to our role in the education of members about fruit growing, the CSA model, and our own farming ethos.
- Minimise the carbon footprint of activities where possible (e.g., reduce packaging and transport).
- Maintain organic certification.
- Strive to grow the highest quality, most abundant, and most nutritious fruit possible.
- Farm ethically, e.g., treat all parts of the ecosystem with respect.
- Continue to educate ourselves and stay knowledgeable about best practices in organic farming.
- Value the input of our CSA community.
- ‘Pay the Rent’ to Castlemaine Pay The Rent.