Away from the bustling NSW Mid-Coast and 700 metres up on the plateau lies the sleepy village of Comboyne. The luscious green fields once carved out of sub-tropical rainforest greet you on your ascent with many a welcoming dairy cow. The fields not home to the cows are aisled with rows of avocado trees too many to count.
It could be said that the prevalence of both cow and avocado is such that there are few places in the area that one could look out from and not see either – nor hear the rainforest birds in the forest that lines every pasture and field.
As Willow, Steph, and I drove past this sleepy village, past the little coffee shop, by the general store, and past the bowls club, we turned down a dirt road and down that road was – of course – an avocado farm. But it wasn’t the avocados that had brought us there, it was the blueberries, for nestled on the side of the hill under bird netting and both above and below the avocado trees was a blueberry field (also just to the right of some cows).
We parked up next to the picker’s tent and met the owner, Penny, who handed us our buckets. The bushes were laden and the berries ready for market. Steph and I worked our way down our aisle picking the plumpest and proudest berries and placing them carefully into the buckets hooked on our belts.
Ticoba Avocados and Blueberries is a family farm, and like many Australian farmers who have battled the extremes of drought and hail in recent years they need our help. With a shortage of backpackers available to complete the harvest the fruit may fall to rot in the aisles without locals lending their hands.
For those who help out, their work is not without great reward. A keen and dexterous picker can earn upwards of $30 per hour on a good farm – though many discover the scenic vistas and delicious fruit much too distracting and find a lot less product makes it into their buckets. Just watch out for farms who use unscrupulous labour hire companies to manage their workforce for you might find yourself being exploited by corporation.
On that sunny afternoon Steph and I discovered that Ticoba is one of the good farms, the workers happy, and Penny and her family to be kind and generous employers.
As we finished for the day we moved our campervan near the packing shed and picker’s kitchen. It is here under the shade of an old fig tree sheltered from the sun we would stay for the rest of the summer picking season.
But this isn’t the story of a sunny day – it’s the story of a rainy day, and as the next few days picking passed uneventfully, and not long after the semi trailer left the packing sheds laden with fruit destined for the Sydney markets the rain hit.
A savage storm struck the East Coast causing flooding in lower lying areas and torrential rain there and everywhere else. This meant no picking for us on the plateau as the beautiful berries now swelled and split with the water they endured.
But all was not lost for a little cat and her humans, for inside our campervan there were cups of tea to be drunk, sandwiches to be made, and treats to be had.
And it is this day that we wish to share with you in this video.
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Thanks for joining us. Sometimes a storm’s not so bad when you have each other. After a week of rain that storm did pass, and we were back to picking again. The blueberries had dried off and an abundance of new fruit ripened.
There’s lots more to show you of our time on the Comboyne Plateau and we very much look forward to sharing it with you as the adventure unravels.