One of our popular rural jobs is as a farm cook on either a farm or cattle station. During the busy periods of the year like seeding, harvest or cattle mustering, large rural farms and stations will employ a cook to make sure their hardworking staff are well-fed.
You don’t have to be a qualified cook or chef to be a farm cook, but you do need to enjoy cooking and be able to plan and prepare hearty meals for hungry workers and ready to live and work in a rural area. A farm cook does much more than just cooking, other duties include cleaning, ordering food and supplies, caring for animals and also helping out with general farm and station labouring work.
To give you an idea of what to expect with a station or farm cook job, here is some feedback from Edel (25, Irish) who spent almost 6 months working as a cook on a cattle station in Western Australia.
Describe your average day as a station cook
You have to be a self-motivated person to set your own routine. I would usually get up in the morning and spend the first hour feeding the horses, sheep, collecting eggs from the chook pen, bottle feeding the poddy (baby) calves and make sure all the animals had water.
After that, I’d go into the kitchen and get my prep work for dinner out of the way. There were always cleaning jobs to do on a rotating basis, plus gardening, watering, etc. Other days we’d butcher cattle and freeze the meat. I also was responsible for ordering for animal feed and food supplies.
What meals would you cook?
BEEF! I tried to think of all different ways to cook beef as that is what you have lots of. And sometimes lamb.
one night, a roast, a pasta, a BBQ, something with mince, etc. Just something hearty and meat-based. This is definitely not a job for a vegetarian!
What did you do in your spare time?
Socialise with staff, go hiking, go for a drive and look at the wildlife, swim in the river. We usually work Monday-Friday and a half day Saturday. On Sundays, the staff would all hang out together and go for a drive, a swim, etc.
In my first 14 weeks, I went to Carnarvon once and to Coral Bay (3 hour drive) twice. Usually on a day off you don’t want to spend ages in the car driving to get somewhere, so we’d just hang out together.
Did the job match your expectations?
Yes and no. The job description was accurate, but nothing can really prepare you for going out to a station. I thought I was ready for rural work and I was still in shock when I arrived. You get to Carnarvon, WA (small town) and then drive three hours from there to the station with hardly anything along the way.
When I arrived, I was freaked out and was like “88 days, all you have to do is 88 days” and I was just going to put my head down and do it. Within 3 weeks, I felt totally at home and loved it. I ended up staying almost 6 months on the station. I loved my experience and have so many stories to share with the grandkids. Truly a once in a lifetime job!
What advice or tips would you give someone preparing for a station or farm cook job?
- Bring a torch and a good pair of proper hiking boots or work boots as you’ll destroy your normal trainers. If you like a certain sport/game/activity, bring that with you.
- There is plenty of time to read so bring a Kindle or books. Usually the station will have books that people have left over the years.
- FORGET YOUR PHONE! The signal is crap, don’t even try. After work, the staff would all sit around together with a couple of beers and chat and laugh. The best entertainment is the people you work with. Forget about what else is going on in the world and just be where you are.
- If you don’t know how to do something, ASK! The station owners and staff are happy to show and explain things, but you have to ask. Don’t go off and do something wrong because you didn’t ask or didn’t want to admit you didn’t know how to do it.
- Give yourself at least 2 weeks to settle in. I was really just counting the days the first week but once I got into a routine and became comfortable, I loved it and totally felt at home. I planned to just do my 88 days but by the end of it, I was asking to stay longer and even returned to the station after a trip to Perth.
- I was very afraid of snakes before I came but I just had to get used to them. Snakes, spiders, and bugs, they all live on the station. Once I found a snake in the toilet! You just have to get over it.
If you are a good home cook who not afraid to get your hands dirty and live in a rural area, a station or farm cook job could be a good fit for you.