Greenhouse CanadaPosted on

FARMS honoured by fruit and veg growers

 

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.

 

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Farm FocusPosted on

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program prepares for 2013

 

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.

 

F.A.R.M.S. representatives will meet with government officials from Jamaica, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and the East Caribbean over the winter to finalize arrangements for the program to assist Ontario farmers for a 47th year in 2013.

 

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Capital PressPosted on

Canadian Growers Tout Guestworker Program

 

Much like the United States, Canada’s agricultural community depends on foreign seasonal workers to get its crops harvested.

 

But while U.S. farmers have found the H-2A guestworker visa program burdensome and bureaucratic, Canadian growers are holding up a program there that they say is efficient and successful.

 

Administered by Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services, a farmer-owned nonprofit, the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program links approximately 16,000 foreign workers with about 1,500 farms in Ontario and Atlantic Canada each year.

 

The program supplies temporary workers under the Commonwealth Caribbean/Mexico Seasonal Workers Program to harvest fruits, vegetables and nursery commodities. It benefits farmers and the workers and creates two permanent Canadian jobs for every foreign worker employed, said Ken Forth, president of FARMS.

 

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Niagara This WeekPosted on

Apple Loss Hits Home Thousands Of Miles Away

 

A four-plus decade relationship continues to bear fruit for local farmers and central America labourers alike.

 

“Everyone involved in the program finds it to be successful,” said Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS) president Ken Forth.

 

And despite a tricky year weather-wise that saw many farmers who normally utilize foreign labour, namely fruit farmers, struggle with lower than expected crop yields, the program didn’t see much of a decline from the 15,000 workers that come to Ontario on average.

 

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Apple Loss Hits Home Thousands Of Miles Away

THE BLUE MOUNTAINS – When the apple doesn’t fall from the tree at all, the effects are far-reaching.

This year’s frost devastation has not only left local farmers hurting – some with less than one per-cent of their regular crop – it’s been a major hit to the seasonal worker community.

In a typical year, there are about 18,000 temporary seasonal workers in Ontario from Mexico and the Caribbean. There are nearly 1,000 employed on local farms from Meaford to Beaver Valley and Collingwood.

This year there’s only about 200 locally.

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Flamborough ReviewPosted on

Uncommon Weather Hurt Ontario’s Crops

Ontario’s unusually hot, dry summer had a predictable negative impact on many of the province’s crops, but it was the frost at the end of April following a warm March that sounded the death knell for tree fruit, said Lynden area farmer Ken Forth.

“I know guys, in cherries, who didn’t shake their trees this year,” said Forth, who is president of Foreign Agricultural Resources Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), a non-profit federal corporation headquartered in Mississauga that oversees the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). He also owns Forthdale Farms on 2nd Concession Road West, where he grows broccoli and lettuce.

Cherry, apple and peach farmers were especially hard hit by the freakish weather that prevailed in Ontario this past winter and spring, Forth noted. Some farmers, with several acres of cherries, didn’t harvest a single cherry, he said, while describing the devastation. The early blossoms and buds that arrived in March were destroyed by April’s frost.

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Northumberland NewsPosted on

Brighton-area Apple Growers Rely On Migrant Workers

Local apple growers learned again this year how fickle the weather can be, but there’s one thing they always can depend on: migrant workers.

If they didn’t come back year after year “we wouldn’t have a farm, as simple as that, not with our acreage,” says Ron Knight, whose third-generation family business, Knight’s Appleden Fruit Ltd., has been around for more than 100 years.

For the last 40 years he’s employed anywhere from 100 to 140 workers from outside Canada to work on 350 acres of apple orchards west of Brighton. The first group of Jamaicans arrives in April and more follow at intervals throughout the summer.

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BeginningFarmers.orgPosted on

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program Eyed As A Model Around The World

With summer 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.

Not only does the 46-year-old program provide a long list of benefits to the workers and the farmers, but also it creates two Canadian jobs in the agrifood industry for every worker employed through SAWP at Ontario agricultural operations, says Ken Forth, president of F.A.R.M.S.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Seasonal farm worker program prepares for labour influx

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program eyed as a model around the world

 

MISSISSAUGA – As Ontario’s early spring allows farmers to get a head start on the growing season, the world’s most successful program connecting seasonal workers with agricultural employers is preparing to kick into high gear.

Administered by Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) expects to link approximately 15,000 requests for seasonal workers with jobs at Ontario farms this growing season.

Not only does the 46-year-old program provide a long list of benefits to the workers and the farmers, but also it creates two Canadian jobs in the agrifood industry for every worker employed through SAWP at Ontario agricultural operations, says Ken Forth, president of F.A.R.M.S.

“Governments and agricultural organizations around the world are looking at this program as a model,” Forth says.  “For decades, this program has provided Ontario farmers a steady source of reliable labour as a supplement to local labour. At the same time it gives the seasonal workers well-paying employment, benefits and educational opportunities not available at home.”

Seasonal workers employed at Ontario farm operations through SAWP:

  • Sign contracts that guarantee them all the protections and benefits that Canadian workers receive, including WSIB, certain EI benefits and provincial health care coverage.
  • Receive an hourly wage rate set by Human Resources & Skills Development Canada.The hourly rate is not less than the provincial minimum wage rate or the local prevailing rate paid to Canadians doing the same job, whichever is greatest.
  • Earn up to five times more than they could in their own countries, which enables them to support their families, educate their children and buy and operate businesses and farms in their own countries.

Farmers have also realized great benefits from the program for more than 40 years, enabling them to hire staff that would otherwise be extremely challenging to find because of the ongoing shortage of suitable and available local Canadian workers.

“Ontario farmers pay the highest farm worker wages in North America and face intense competition from low-wage competitors,” Forth says. “Without this program, many Ontario farmers simply couldn’t continue to grow fruits and vegetables. They’d stop growing altogether or move into less labour-intensive crops.

About the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program:

More information about Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) can be found at mediacentre.farmsontario.ca

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program at root of agri-food industry

 

Signs of life and renewal are impossible to ignore on farms across Ontario as spring kick starts the growing cycle.

Buds beginning to sprout on fruit trees. Shoots poking from the soil in greenhouses in preparation for May planting. And in orchards and greenhouses everywhere, farmers and the workers who help them are busy laying the groundwork for the eventual harvest.

Dig down a little deeper beneath the surface, and you’ll find a highly successful labour program at the root of Ontario’s important fruit and vegetable industry — an industry that faces unprecedented challenges from low-wage international competitors on the global market.

The 46-year-old Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) is widely regarded as the best of its kind in the world.

Administered by Mississauga-based Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS) on behalf of Ontario farmers, the program was initially established in 1966 to respond to a critical shortage of available local Canadian agricultural workers.

Nearly half a century later, the program continues as a supplement to local labour and serves the same vital function on an even larger scale.

It is expected that approximately 15,000 seasonal agricultural workers from Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad/Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean States will be connected with employment on farms across Ontario this season, as the program has done each year for the past decade.

Because SAWP is a “Canadians first” program, seasonal farm labour is hired from other countries only if agricultural operators cannot find domestic workers to fill vacancies.

Ontario farmers pay the highest farm worker wages on average in North America and face intense pressure from international competitors trying to eat into their market share.

Without the steady source of reliable seasonal workers provided through SAWP as a supplement to local labour, many farmers in Ontario’s agri-food industry simply couldn’t remain economically viable. They’d be forced to stop growing fruits and vegetables altogether or move into less labour-intensive crops.

As a result, Canada would lose a vital source of high-quality, healthy food grown locally and a farming tradition that stretches back to the early days of the province’s European settlement would vanish.

Ontario’s rural communities would also be dealt a damaging economic blow. Two jobs for Canadians are created in the agri-food industry for every seasonal agricultural worker employed through the program at Ontario farms.

Knowing a reliable source of seasonal workers exists allows farmers to plan for the future, invest in their operations and continue a livelihood that has sometimes been shared by their families for generations.

Not only does the program benefit Ontario farmers and our overall economy, but also it pays tremendous dividends for the seasonal workers hired each year and the source countries which are partners in SAWP.

Seasonal workers can earn as much as five times or more working here than they could in their own countries. They are paid an hourly rate set by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada that is no less than the provincial minimum wage rate or the prevailing rate paid to Canadians doing the same job, whichever is greatest.

This income allows the workers to improve the standard of living of their families, educate their children and buy and operate businesses and farms in their own countries.

Contracts signed by seasonal workers and their employers guarantee them all the protections and benefits that Canadian workers receive, including WSIB, certain EI benefits and provincial health care coverage.

Farm employers must provide suitable accommodation to seasonal workers at no cost. They must also adhere to strict housing standards which are regulated by several government bodies, including local public health units, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and, in some areas, fire inspection.

Seasonal workers are restricted to a period of employment lasting no longer than eight months in a year and are guaranteed no less than 240 hours of work. The average length of stay for workers is 20 weeks.

The program is so popular among workers reaping these benefits that approximately 85% of them opt to return on repeat contracts.

Countries that have partnered with Canada in SAWP also benefit, receiving a significant infusion of foreign currency. But the benefit isn’t just monetary. Farm workers return home with new skills and experience that they can pass on in a knowledge transfer that improves agricultural practices in their own countries.

Given the positive spin-offs to all involved, it’s no wonder the program that helps sustain Ontario’s agri-food industry is being eyed as a model by governments and agricultural organizations around the world.

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(Ken Forth is president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), the non-profit organization that administers the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. He is an owner/operator of a broccoli farm outside of Hamilton, Ont. in Rockton.)