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. I have apples, a few pear trees, two peach trees, and one plum tree.
I couldn’t do what I do without the seasonal agricultural worker program. I have two workers who arrive in late March/early April who help with pruning, training trees, and assisting with a lot of the spring work. We never get through the pruning. A lot of the trees have to be pruned twice a year. Once when they are dormant, then again to allow the fruit to colour by ensuring that the branches that shade them are taken away.
Harvest is the most challenging time for us. We need these workers to bring the crop in. They are incredible guys, and some of them have been here for many years. One of our team members has been here since 1987, and another man who came in 1989 is now one of our lead men and grades the fruit as it comes in. We demand high quality, he’s done an excellent job grading over the years, and I’m lucky to have his help.
I have had a help wanted ad locally for 12 months of the year, and I’ve only had two responses in the last five years. The type of work we need to be done is repetitive and people aren’t interested in doing this anymore. We’ve got a six to seven-week window to harvest the crop, and we need good, reliable people who will show up even when the weather is not very nice.
This year, we won’t get all of our apples harvested due to the lack of labour. Our seasonal agriculture works are vital to growing fruit and vegetables in Ontario.