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.
Each year I advertise everywhere looking for farm workers. I put up tons of postings online; we put up flyers in all of the suppliers and local farm stores and it is virtually impossible to find local help. We are fortunate to have a great group of seasonal workers from Jamaica that come every year to work for us. They arrive in April and they are usually here until November. They come to the farm happy to be here and making a much better wage than they can at home. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.
Their job all season is to protect the fruit. They will start off removing vines that were pruned during the winter, then they will tuck the remaining vines into the wires and remove any branches that are in the way of the fruit. We don’t want anything touching the grapes because that can cause disease problems.
I think there are a lot of misconceptions around the way that migrant workers are treated. Our guys are treated like kings. We just finished building a brand new house for them to live in that has all sorts of safety measures and features that make it very Covid (or other virus) proof in case we go through that again. Every pay day the workers finish up at noon and have the rest of the day to go shopping. They take a company van and go wherever they like. They also get to take a half day every two weeks and do whatever they want.