Meet the faces behind the Ontario produce on your plate! Each year thousands of migrant farm workers make their way to Ontario to work on fruit and vegetable farms around the province. While for many of them this experience is relatively new, some workers have been returning to Ontario farms for over 20 years! From trumpet players to carpenters, they all have a unique story to share. Click the profiles below to learn more about the women and men who play such an important role on our farms.
My name is Leticia Mendoza Cruz. I’m from Mexico. I’ve been coming for 30 years but I have 27 years here at this farm. In Mexico, it’s so hard. Here, I had the opportunity to work, make money to build my house and care for my family. I love the flowers. It’s my favourite – picking the flowers.
I’m from Jamaica in the West Indies and I’ve been coming here since 1990 – 34 seasons. I come here to work and to support my family back home. In Jamaica, I have my own small farm. I grow cabbage and yam – those kinds of things. My neighbours and friends look after the farm when I’m here. I have a wife, son and two grandchildren.
I am Brian Gilroy, an apple farmer. We're just south of Medford, a historic location known as Nighthawk Valley; thus, the name of the orchard is Nighthawk Orchards. I have been here since 1987. There were 50 acres of orchard then, and we're down to about 27 acres of Orchard altogether.
My name is Chaplin White, and I am from Troy in Trelawny, Jamaica. This is my fifteenth time coming to Canada on this program. I started this program for a better life. Back home, I do farming. I plant yams, bananas, and plantains and raise livestock like cows and goats.
My name is Delroy Martin, and I am from St. Thomas, Jamaica. I came to this farm 33 years ago; I was young, always wanting to work. I've seen changes while I've lived in Canada. The first thing would be that it's not as cold as it used to be. When I first started, it was real, real cold. Canada isn't that cold anymore, and the work is getting much easier.
I am Carlos Baker from Jamaica. People call me Kevin back home - but my real name is Carlos. I have been here for nine years now. I love it here. I want to live here, but it is hard to get the status to stay here. Back home, I have a wife, and we have been together for 23 years - her name is Camile.
I have many fond memories of growing up with these men and workers on the farm. I watched them when I was young, talked with them, and heard their stories over the years. I have even more fond memories of getting to work with them while getting to know them better. They have shared what their lives are like back home.
We are in the Beaver Valley just outside of Thornbury. This is our home farm, and we are celebrating our 103rd anniversary of family apple growing. We started with the farm worker program in 1979. The seasonal workers arrive in the spring to help us prune, thin, plant trees, and do all the regular Orchard growing practices. We presently have 60 Jamaican workers helping us. We consider these workers our family.
My name is Dykelon Murray – but everyone calls me Murray. I’ve been coming to Canada for 22 years; 15 years at this farm. I decided to come here to help my family back home and to help myself. On this farm, I drive the equipment, I do all the spraying of the farm. I help with the pruning. Canadians should know that we work hard.
I’m Chrishaine Gowdie and I’m from Manchester, Jamaica. I’ve been coming to Canada and this farm for seven years. I came here just to make life a little better for my family back home. I pick apples and grapes, prune and other stuff. I do construction when I go back home for the winter.
My name is Paul Sharrier and I’m from Central Clarington in Jamaica. I’m 41 years old and have been coming to this farm about seven years. The truth of the matter is that our economy is not as good as yours. So when we come here and go back, it allows us to earn a better living to help ourselves and our family back home.
My name is Perry Richards and I’m from the Parish of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. I’ve been coming to Canada for around 29 years but working here for 17 years. It’s helpful to us to be here. It’s helpful to my family; helpful to get my kids through school.