Vegetable greenhouses actively recruit local workers
By Greta Chiu
Greenhouse operators are actively seeking local help, and this could be just the right opportunity for individuals temporarily out of work.
As businesses in other sectors momentarily shut down or lay off employees due to COVID-19 measures, greenhouses are recruiting for both short-term and permanent roles as horticulture’s peak busy season approaches.
“Each growing season, many of these roles are often filled with temporary foreign workers approved to work in Canada specifically to assist with the busy produce season,” says Sarah Krzysik, public relations coordinator at Nature Fresh Farms, in Leamington, Ont. “Given the current COVID-19 restrictions on travel, it was issued that Canada would be closed to all non-Canadian and American citizens, however, we have been informed that given the essential role of temporary foreign workers to the agricultural sector, the government will allow workers to continue to enter, yet the logistics of their entry is still being determined.”
Earlier this week, the federal government announced the closure of Canada’s border to non-Canadian citizens and residents, with the exception of essential travel through the Canadian-US border.
“We expected over 100 temporary foreign workers between now and the end of May, however with the travel restrictions, the uncertainty of timing and other unknown implications, we have had to respond by hiring more contract workers and appealing to the community to find more local support,” says Krzysik. Nature Fresh is currently looking for both full-time and short-term help in crop maintenance, harvesting and packing. “Any healthy individuals looking for work at this time can support local agricultural efforts by applying for these positions.”
The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) issued a statement today, confirming that “the federal government is working towards exempting temporary foreign workers from pending travel restrictions due to COVID-19,” but notes that many logistical challenges and details remain to be resolved. “The OFVGA continues to work closely with our national allies, F.A.R.M.S., the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Horticultural Council, and the federal government to find workable solutions to ensure the timely arrival of workers.”
UPDATE: Seasonal agricultural workers and agricultural TFWs will be exempt from COVID-19 travel restrictions, but details and logistics have not yet been finalized.
As for ensuring the health of both Canadians and foreign workers, the OFVGA says they “will work closely with government and health officials to ensure that the entry of these essential foreign workers is done in the safest way possible, to protect the health of Canadians, the workers, and maintain a safe and secure domestic food supply.”
Having weathered through tough times before, growers are doing everything possible to forge ahead with production, putting food on the table while mitigating viral risks for Canadians. “As new information is provided, we will do what we can to help alleviate the challenges these restrictions have caused and are confident that we can continue to provide fresh produce to fill grocery store shelves,” says Krzysik.