January – the beginning of a new year, filled with hope for resolutions to the sector’s top challenges. As you’ll see from the national state of the industry report and from Gary Jones’ perspective, we’ve inherited ongoing issues of yesteryear – labour, energy, cannabis and uncertainty in general. So what’s there to look forward to?
For one, I’m hopeful for more positive recognition of the seasonal workers program in the media and changing public perception. From the phone conversation I had with Ken Forth months ago, we’re short about 50,000 workers in the agricultural sector as a whole. “And by 2025,” he says, “we’ll be short about 120,000.” Why? The usual suspects – an aging population among farmers and Canadians simply can’t support their families on a seasonal job alone.
“For every [seasonal] worker that comes to work on a fruit and vegetable farm, on average, two Canadian full-time jobs are created, whether it be on the farm or agri-business,” says Forth. What’s more, every seasonal worker supports nearly 10 others back home. Multiply that by 35,000 workers and it’s 350,000 lives on the line, he explains. The earnings pay for their children’s education, bringing changes to their respective nations. But stories picked up by mainstream media don’t always reveal the positives.
As president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S), Forth has not only brought light to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), but also helped countless growers with their applications – a process that has become more lengthy due to heightened security measures. “It’s 25 pages of stuff, and that’s a long way from three [pages] 20 years ago,” he says.
Forth and F.A.R.M.S’ efforts have not gone unnoticed, receiving recognition through an honorary degree from the University of Guelph and at OGVG’s annual meeting this past year. For 50 years, the Lynden-based vegetable grower has been an employer with SAWP, one of two temporary foreign workers programs in Canada.
It’s also heartening to see more attention being brought to this issue. The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met back in early October to discuss how the value-added food sector could become more competitive in global markets with respect to temporary foreign labour. See summary of proceedings online.
Second item to look forward to: Grower Day has grown into Grower Days, running from June 18th to 19th. First day will be the original show for flowers and vegetables, still hosted by Greenhouse Canada. Second day will be run by sister pub Grow Opportunity for all things cannabis. Full days of great programming to come. Stay tuned.
Third item: more feedback. Did you like the themes in 2018? Were there too many articles on one topic, or maybe you’d like more webinars? Perhaps you caught a spelling mistake too glaring to ignore. Call, email or stop me on the tradeshow floor – let me know what issues matter to you. Because at the end of the day, this magazine is for you, our readers. I’m just the curator. Together, we can make this made-in-Canada magazine something to be proud of.
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