Helping Ontario Grow: A Video on the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. Read the article to watch the video
Attribution used with permission from John Deere’s the Furrow magazine.
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MISSISSAUGA – With spring well underway, the world’s most successful program connecting seasonal workers with agricultural employers has kicked into high gear. Administered by Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) links approximately 15,000 requests for seasonal workers with jobs at Ontario farms this growing season.
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The 2012 growing season may be behind us, but Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.) is already busy putting plans together with its international partners for spring 2013 when more than 15,000 seasonal workers will return to Ontario farms.
The 2012 season saw more than 15,600 workers from several Caribbean countries employed at Ontario agricultural operations through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), providing a much-needed supply of labour because of the ongoing shortage of suitable and available local Canadian workers.
Recessions, commodity price drops, changes in EI rules, killing frosts — nothing seems to dent Ontario’s farm offshore labour program.
Since the mid-1960s, the country’s farmers have been hiring people from overseas, particularly from the Caribbean and Mexico, to help get their crops off their fields.
What started off as a couple of hundred workers has since grown to more than 15,000. They help harvest fruits and vegetables or work in tobacco as well as greenhouses and nurseries.
The OFVGA’s Award of Merit was presented to a group this year: Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS). Formed in 1987 to administrate the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, FARMS has proven adept in the logistics of bringing offshore labour from Mexico and the Caribbean to Canada. The award was accepted by past presidents Gary Cooper and Hector Delanghe, current president Ken Forth and general manager Sue Williams.
Marc Smith, assistant director of the Cornell University experimental station is visibly shaken as he describes events on some U.S. farms that seem more “Men in Black” than “Farmer in Plaid.” He talks in heart-wrenching detail about nighttime raids, helicopters landing in yards, Department of Homeland Security enforcement officers harassing farm employees, and farmers being taken away in handcuffs.
You soon appreciate why Smith says the mostly illegal Mexican workers and the American farmers who hire them are living in fear.
More than 15 thousand seasonal workers are expected to return to Ontario farms this year. That’s according to Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services – or FARMS. That’s the group which helps farmers coordinate the workforce through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.
President Ken Forth says the program provides farmers with a steady source of reliable labour as a supplement to local labour.
The organization that manages the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) has been recognized for its contributions to the Ontario horticulture sector.
The Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Service – commonly known as FARMS – was named the recipient of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) Award of Merit.
“The service of FARMS to our industry is invaluable and the organization is a very deserving winner of this award,” says Art Smith, CEO of the OFVGA.