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 Zico, I am from Barbados. I have been coming here for two years now. Barbados is a cricket nation but football in Barbados is growing. It is getting better and it really means a lot, it is getting a lot of youngsters off the block (out of trouble). I love everything about football. My father was a footballer, so it was passed down. I started playing football in class three. First I was a runner, a sprinter.
My name is Barrington Blake. I am from the Parish of St. Elizabeth, in Jamaica. I started this program in2001. I had an accident and I was back home on a break for four years and then came back. People may not know that with the program we have a health card and an insurance card that we can use to get medication if we are ill and go to the doctors so we don’t have to pay any money.
I am Adam Arboine from Jamaica, I have been coming to Canada for 22 years. I was working in landscaping in Jamaica and a member of the Ministry (of Labour) came by and said to us we should come to Canada to make money and he introduced me to the program (Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program). When I first found out I got into the program I was so happy.
My name is Lee Kuhn, I am the Operations Manager of Malivoire Wine Company in Beamsville. Niagara is a unique place to grow grapes because of the weather. It is positioned between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and that creates almost a sub-tropic climate, which is ideal for growing things especially fruit.
My name is Michael Ferguson, I am from Jamaica and I have been coming here for 15 years. I had heard about the program (Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program) through friends and people in my area and I thought it could help make my life better. I was very excited and I was very happy when I got accepted. My first year, I came in April.
My name is Vivian Small, but most people call me Rice. People call me Rice because I eat a lot of rice. I eat rice every night and twice on Sundays! Everyone call me Rice so that’s my name, Rice. I am from Manchester, Jamaica and I am here as a seasonal worker. I have been coming to Canada for 25 years.
My name is Rayon, I am from Jamaica. My first trip to Canada was the sixth of June, 2001 and I have been coming every year since. I have always worked for the same farm. When it has been 23 years and you keep coming back, you are doing it because you love it and that is the truth. This farm treats us well and I’m going to keep doing this for another 23 years.
I’m Terry Lewis and I am from Trinidad and Tobago. This is the sixth year that I have been coming to Canada. Back home where I am from, employment is kind of rough; it is hard to get. I was seeking a good opportunity because I have a family, I have kids and I heard about the farm program. I followed up and here I am.
My name is Síven, I am from the Parish of St. Catherine in Jamaica. This is my second year coming to Canada. I am here to get some different experiences like the weather and the different types of work. The word jovial defines my character.
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.