“This is the first farm, and I don’t find any fault with it, so that’s the reason that I’m here. As long as the boss is good to me, I’m still going to be here,” he says. “We just stayed on the farm (the first year of the pandemic) and didn’t go anywhere; the boss did some shopping for us, and we stayed safe. Now we’ve gotten our two shots already and it feels good.”
Many fruit and vegetable crops grown in Ontario lack the technologies that would allow growers to automate or mechanize growing or harvesting tasks. That means a lot of hand labour is still required, and although those jobs are readily available and promoted to local workers, few apply.
That’s where SAWP and the agricultural stream of the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program help farmers fill their labour gaps with international workers who are eager for the opportunities that a job in Canada can provide.
Critics of the longtime program suggest it lacks oversight, and that workers are subjected to long hours with few, if any rights. That’s not the case for SAWP workers, say organizations who have spent decades working with migrant farm workers and their employers.
According to Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services, which helps administer SAWP in Ontario, the governments of the workers’ home countries employ liaison officers in Canada who support the workers while they are here with things like non-workplace medical care, compensation and personal issues.
The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) says how much farmers and their employees must work at a given time depends on nature: the weather and where crops are in their growing cycle.
“Fruits and vegetables are perishable, so sometimes a lot of work must be done in a short amount of time, which can make for workdays that are very different than a typical nine-to-five job,” says OFVGA policy advisor Stefan Larrass. “If a crop is ready for harvest on the weekend, for example, that’s when that work needs to be done; waiting until Monday could mean the produce has spoiled and can no longer be consumed.”
“What do I like about Canada? From the places I’ve been, I like everything. The people are nice, the agriculture is great, and I get to try different equipment and new technology,” Gopaul says. “I do a little bit of everything; I really love my job.”
To learn more about migrant farm workers like Myron and Baldeo and their experiences on Ontario fruit and vegetable farms, visit morethanamigrantworker.ca.
This story was provided by the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association.