Seasonal worker picks up cabbage farming

A seasonal worker who spent four years working on cabbage farms in Australia says he was able to use the planting skills he learnt to establish his own farm in Samoa.

Matulino Tooala of Vaitele-fou told the Samoa Observer that he spent four years working on cabbage farms in Australia and returned to Samoa with newly acquired farming skills which he has put to good use.

“I join in the seasonal worker program that was given by the Government of Samoa, I work in one of the cabbage farms in Australia and I have learnt a lot from the work and also the use of equipment in our work,” he said.

“My first year I came back and built myself a new home and made use of the time in planting out our very own cabbage farm by using some of my skills that I have learned from Australia, for that I did this [cabbage farm] for my own family to make a living.

“In my vegetable farm there are Chinese cabbages, lettuce and cucumber. In order for these vegetables to grow I must protect them so I used the knowledge that we learnt in Australia to protect them.”

Prior to the closure of the international border due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Tooala said there was a high demand for his locally grown vegetables from hotels and shops, and he also had a stall at the flea market every Sunday morning.

Besides the indirect benefits of upskilling himself as a cabbage farmer, there were also the rewards of the generous income for the family which enabled him to purchase a vehicle and he is now saving for his children’s school fees.

But working as a seasonal worker abroad also has its challenges and for Mr Tooala it was his separation from his family that was the hardest.

“That is one hard part for me is to leave my family behind. But as I went along this journey is not easy so I pray to God to be with me and guide me throughout the whole work.

“But at least I have the chance of talking to my family, especially my kids by using messenger on the Facebook to talk with them every day.”

And it was his wife who was the hardest hit by his absence, saying rather humorously: “Another funny thing is my wife did cry whenever we talk but not my children.”

Mr Tooala was among over 100 seasonal workers who left Samoa before and after the general election to work on farms in Australia.

Both the governments of Australia and New Zealand have offered over 500 placings under the Seasonal Workers Programme to Samoa with the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour overseeing the recruitment process. 

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