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 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.
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.