After 30 happy, satisfying, years of teaching Lindsay Harvey of Tauranga called it a day at the end of her 65th year. But she wasn’t about to age gracefully.
Retirement from the classroom meant it was time for me to move on to other activities and I had the “4 Ts” embedded in my mind.
- Time with family
- Turning the turf (gardening)
I launched into these activities that gave me great satisfaction, but as an adult living alone, I felt more daily interaction with people was needed.
I was reluctant to seek a part-time job where I was restricted in my movements, just some contact with people for a “chunk” of the year and that little bit of extra revenue would be welcome too.
$18 per hour felt about right.
An advertisement appeared in the local paper requesting staff for kiwifruit operations at a packing house not too far from my home. 10 minutes drive in fact.
Initially, I felt the hours of work were a bit daunting 7am – 6.30 pm, six days a week. I would be on my feet for the duration of that time, except for smoko and lunch of course. This was to be approximately a 10-week position from April through to mid-June.
I signed up, was given the training and completed a health and safety induction certificate.
My main task was as a grader of gold and green kiwifruit for the export market. The fruit was classified as grade 1 or 2 and Reject. Shape, fungal attack, insect attack, sooty mould, surface deposits, blemishes, punctures, mutated Hayward* marks, ripe fruit, stems and water stains all had to be quickly identified and removed as the fruit passed by quickly on rollers.
I also had intervals working at the box preparation station, lining the boxes and placing a moulded tray inside. This was considered my “daily workout” as keeping up with the machine was somewhat of a challenge. I admired those who worked there all day but they helped each other out and it was great to see teamwork at play. Packing fruit was also one of my tasks.
Basically, the lunch and smoko times kept me going. I looked forward to a chat with other retirees and young folk on their OE. (Mainly from Europe, United Kingdom and South America.)
The canteen offered an array of home-cooked food items. Some employees took advantage of the free breakfasts too.
At the end of the morning smoko a manager would inform us of our work performance as a team. How many bins we had processed, any problems with imminent fruit coming through, health and safety concerns, work days or release days ahead and we celebrated birthdays at this time.
Visiting speakers informed us of possible healthcare issues. A physiotherapist taught us exercises we should be doing to relieve aches.
To keep our interest up there was a competition to calculate when the pack house would reach the five million tray pack milestone. We also had a pink shirt day for anti-bullying in the workplace and a dress-up on the last day. Prizes were distributed.
On one occasion we all had to work overtime into the evening. Management looked after us by providing an unexpected, very generous buffet dinner.
To weigh up my experience. Yes, I was standing on my feet most of the day but on purpose made, rubber matting, the hours were long but you became accustomed to them and when it was raining there was no harvesting so random rest periods occurred.
It threw me into a position of feeling productive, I enjoyed the camaraderie, made a few dollars to top up my “slush” fund and I’ve just bought an e-bike for trail riding.
I think I’ll be back again next year!
- The Hayward cultivar is the most common kiwifruit. It was developed in Avondale in Auckland in 1924 by Hayward Wright. There is often a line running down the side of the Hayward variety and this is known as the Hayward mark. sometimes the line is too long or wide, there could be multiples or there is a fleshy hook at the end. These become rejects.
- This article appeared in the winter edition of InfoLink 2019.