Thousands of people travel to Canada each harvest season to take part in one of the country’s iconic summer jobs – fruit picking. For many, it’s a rite of passage and a fun way to spend a few months working outdoors and making money while enjoying Canada’s beautiful scenery.
If you’re interested in joining them for the 2024 harvest season, now is the time to start planning and preparing. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to land one of those coveted Canada fruit picker jobs, including:
- The different types of fruit-picking jobs available
- Key dates and deadlines for applying
- What crops will be in season, and when
- Requirements and qualifications
- How to find and apply for jobs
- Visa and work permit information
- Housing and accommodations
- Typical wages and schedules
- Tips from experienced pickers
- Answers to frequently asked questions
The Different Types of Fruit-Picking Jobs
Fruit picking jobs in Canada cover a wide variety of crops throughout the different regions. Here are some of the most common options:
Berry Picking – Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries are plentiful crops in many parts of Canada. Peak seasons run from June through August. Berry picking requires a lot of bending and kneeling, but it’s very hands-on.
Apple and Cherry Picking – Orchards in British Columbia, Ontario, and the Maritimes need pickers from July through September/October. Ladders or platforms may be used to reach higher fruits.
Grape Harvesting – The Okanagan Valley of BC has many vineyards in need of harvest help from August through October. It involves cutting clusters of grapes from vines.
Melon Harvesting – Southern Ontario grows lots of watermelons, cantaloupe, and honeydew. June through August is melon season.
Tree Fruit Picking – Beyond apples and cherries, jobs exist for picking peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums. June through early fall.
Vegetable Harvesting – Corn, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes are common crops needing pickers from June through September across Ontario and Quebec.
Be open-minded about the different crops, as jobs vary greatly by region. Research what grows locally to target applications.
Key Dates for the 2024 Season
The 2024 harvest season will run roughly from May/June through October, depending on the crop and region. Here are some key dates to keep in mind:
- January-March 2024 – Start searching for job listings and applying early. Popular orchards fill fast.
- March-April 2024 – Expect to receive job offers/contracts. Respond promptly to secure your position.
- April-May 2024 – Apply for a Canadian work permit if needed. The process can take 4-6 weeks.
- May-June 2024 – Peak arrival time for international workers. Line up housing in advance.
- Mid-June 2024 – Strawberry season kicks off in most regions. Work until mid-August typically.
- July-Sept 2024 – Height of harvest for apples, cherries, grapes, melons and vegetables. Busy months!
- September-October 2024 – Later crops like pears and some apples. Work may still be available.
Begin searching listings in early 2023 to gauge options. Have all documentation ready to apply as positions open up. Act fast once hired to arrange timely travel and accommodation.
Requirements and Qualifications
While no prior experience is necessarily required for most entry-level fruit-picking jobs, there are some baseline qualifications:
- Age – You must typically be at least 16-18 years old, depending on the crop and province.
- Physical Fitness – Picking is physical work that involves standing, bending, lifting, and repetitive motions. A basic level of health and endurance is expected.
- Reliability – Farmers depend on crews daily. Punctuality, good attendance, and a strong work ethic are vital.
- Flexibility – Work schedules may vary based on conditions. Openness to overtime and changes is valued.
- Clean Background – Past criminal incidents could impact eligibility for a work permit/visa. Discuss any concerns openly with employers.
- Fluency – While English is common on farms, knowledge of basic French may aid those seeking jobs in Quebec.
Beyond those minimum criteria, having relevant experience like a food handling certificate or prior farm work can make candidates more attractive. Overall, reliability is key.
Visa and Work Permit Requirements
Citizens of many countries, including the UK, USA, Australia, and New Zealand, are eligible for an open work permit through various International Experience Canada (IEC) programs when entering Canada to pick fruit.
If you do not qualify for an open work permit, you’ll need to obtain a regular Canadian temporary foreign worker work permit sponsored by your hiring farm. This generally involves:
- Confirming a legitimate job offer for the season
- Meeting health, character, and language requirements
- Paying permit application fees ($155+)
- Waiting 4-6 weeks for processing
- Entering Canada with a valid permit
Be sure to research and start any permit applications well in advance of desired arrival dates. As long as you secure a job offer early, getting the necessary documentation should be straightforward. Just follow all rules and procedures carefully.
Finding and Applying to Jobs
Now that you understand qualifications, it’s time to start looking for openings. Here are some of the top places to search for Canadian fruit-picking jobs:
- Job boards – Sites like Working Holiday and Job Bank Canada aggregate listings.
- Farm/orchard websites – Browse operations in desired locations for “work with us” sections.
- Association directories – Groups like BC Jobs in Agriculture promote member businesses seeking help.
- Social media – Follow the pages of farms and keep an eye out for shared job postings.
- International recruiters – Some help fill major crews for bigger farms/co-ops.
- Word of mouth – Talking to past pickers is a great way to find hidden gem jobs.
When applying, be sure applications are thorough, well-written and highlight any relevant skills or experience. Follow up promptly if contacted for interviews too. Timing is important to secure one of the coveted spots.
Some farms conduct advanced online screening and testing to assess candidate suitability before extending offers. Prepare accordingly and put your best foot forward to impress potential employers.
Housing and Accommodations
Finding suitable housing for the season is an important part of the planning process. Here are the typical options available:
- Farm-provided housing – Larger operations often have basic dorms, cabins, or trailers rented to workers. Options may be shared.
- Rental apartments/houses – Some pickers arrange private accommodations themselves in nearby towns. Rents vary from location to location.
- Rental campers/RVs – Living “off-grid” in a mobile vehicle is a popular choice providing flexibility to follow work.
- Hostels/resorts – Budget-friendly hostels exist, and resorts sometimes offer housekeeping cabin rentals to harvest helpers.
- Extended stays motels – An option of last resort given daily costs, but can work short-term while searching for other arrangements.
Start making housing inquiries to farms and local listings as early as January/February to secure a spot, as spaces fill up fast. Be prepared for all costs associated with any living situation. Ensure housing is aligned and lined up alongside confirmed job offers.
Wages, Taxes, and Schedules
Income potential and schedules for Canadian fruit-picking jobs can vary depending on the region, specific crop, and individual productivity. Here are some average wage and hour guidelines, though:
- Piece rates typically $0.25-$2 per bucket/pound/container picked
- Hourly jobs may pay provincial minimum wage ($15-16/hour CAD)
- Experienced pickers can earn $15,000-$30,000 for a full 4-month season
- 45-60 hours per week is common during peak harvest times
- Overtime rates often apply after 44 hours weekly
- 10%-20% of earnings may be deducted by farms for housing
- Taxes are deducted at source like any job, but income may not cross taxable thresholds
- Work schedules depend on weather and ripeness, but weekends and evenings are common
- Some crops have short 2-4 week seasons while others stretch two months
With longer hours and more practice, earnings really add up for a dedicated crew who sticks around for successive harvests as crops rotate. Pace yourself to stay healthy.
Helpful Tips from Seasoned Pickers
For anyone new to fruit picking, here are some extra tips from experienced harvest hands to help make the most of your season:
- Bring snacks, water, sunscreen, and comfortable clothes suited for being outside all day. Layer up for changing temperatures. Comfort is key.
- Invest in a good pair of harvesting gloves to protect your hands from cuts, scrapes, and fruit/plant irritation over time.
- Wear closed-toe shoes with thick soles suitable for acres of walking through fields and orchards each day.
- Arrive to work fed, hydrated, and well-rested to start shifts with energy. Pace yourself to maintain productivity.
- Pay attention during training on safe ladder/platform use if crops need to be reached at height.
- Mark buckets/bins clearly with your name to avoid mistakenly taking credit or blame for others’ work.
- Get to know your crewmates – teamwork makes the long days more fun and helps pass the time.
- Save 10-20% of earnings each week as you go rather than spending it all at once on vacations later.
- Use downtime to explore nearby areas on days off for scenic hikes, tastings, and cultural experiences.
- Apply sunscreen multiple times per day, stay hydrated with water, and stretch/move regularly to avoid soreness and fatigue.
- Thank the farmers often – their livelihood depends on crews, so be respectful guests at all times.
Hopefully, these extra tips will help set expectations and provide value during the season of mountain harvest memories ahead!
FAQ 1: Do I need experience?
Most entry-level orchard and farm jobs do not require any prior experience with commercial fruit picking. A background working on other farms or with produce can help, but a strong work ethic and trainability are the main qualifications sought by employers.
FAQ 2: What if English isn’t my first language?
While English is widely spoken on Canadian farms, having basic conversations in French may increase opportunities for jobs in Quebec. Either way, willingness to learn is valued. Many international pickers without fluent English are hired each season. Hand signals and pictograms assist in training.
FAQ 3: Is it easy to make friends?
Absolutely! Crews are often very international and social. Shared housing, long workdays, and weekends exploring together make it easy to bond with co-workers. Picking becomes more fun with a group of friends by your side throughout the harvest adventure.
FAQ 4: How physically demanding is it?
Fruit picking requires good stamina and hand-eye coordination to work quickly. The repetitive motions can be tiring, as can hiking acres of fields daily. Staying well-hydrated, taking breaks regularly, and using harvesting gloves help protect hands in the long run. Having an overall level of fitness makes the job much more comfortable and productive.
FAQ 5: Are there other job opportunities?
Beyond picking, some farms also hire for packing, sorting, quality control, or farm maintenance roles. Larger operations may have positions in packing facilities after harvest too. Gaining experience picking could also lead to promotions like crew leadership roles. Individual orchards or vineyards may have further job openings as well.