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Seasonal workers planting onions
Farm labour
As with many other types of businesses, farmers often need to hire additional people besides family members to help keep things running. Technology and equipment play a large role, but people are still the most important component of every farm. Mother Nature can be a tough boss too – cows have to be milked every day, and when a fruit or vegetable crop is ripe, it must be harvested right away, or it will lose its taste and quality, and could rot in the  eld or on the vine.
Fruit and vegetable farmers particularly rely on many people to help them
plant, manage, and harvest their crops; there is just no machine yet capable of harvesting delicate fruits like strawberries, raspberries, or peaches without damaging them.
Many Canadian farmers – who offer
many seasonal positions but do not have enough workers to  ll them – rely on workers from countries where there’s a shortage of employment. That’s why the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program (SAWP) was established in 1966 to bring workers from Mexico, Jamaica, and Eastern Caribbean countries, to work on Canadian fruit and vegetable farms. Many of these workers have been coming to the same farms for years, and the money they earn helps take care of their families. In some cases, their children also receive an education they wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. Workers in the program have the same rights and responsibilities as Canadians, and there are strict rules imposed by both the worker’s home country and the Canadian government that both farmers and workers have to follow.
Pro le
Joseph Hackett
Joseph Hackett has been working seasonally in Canada for 14 years at Wilmot Orchards, a family- owned apple and blueberry farm near Toronto.
He arrives with other workers to the farm from
his native Barbados and from Mexico in early
April and returns home to his wife, children and grandchildren in November. Even though he misses his family, he looks forward to returning to Canada each year.
Working in Canada has been a great experience for Hackett and he is a strong proponent in
giving back to his host country. At home, he is a long-time volunteer with the Barbados Red Cross and with a disaster relief organization. In Ontario, he’s now second vice president of the local Lions Club and, along with four others from his farm,
has been participating annually in the Ride to Conquer Cancer (a 220 km bike ride from Toronto to Niagara). Collectively, they have raised more than $110,000 for cancer research in the years they’ve been doing it. “I’m not one to sit around,” said Hackett. “I love doing service work”.
Approximately 20,000 people come to work in Canada each year through the seasonal worker program. To learn more about the program, visit
Seasonal worker
More than just a job
Working in agriculture goes far beyond growing crops or raising livestock. One in eight jobs in Canada is linked to agriculture.50 In Ontario alone, the demand for graduates from the Ontario Agricultural College exceeds supply – there are approximately four jobs available for every OAC graduate entering the agri-food sector.51 From communications, engineering, and economics, to food and animal sciences, tourism, and the environment, the job possibilities are endless.
The Real Dirt on Farming 29
Joseph Hackett

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