Thousands of seasonal agricultural workers have arrived in Ontario

Migrant workers employed by the seasonal farm worker program have begun arriving from the Caribbean and Mexico to help Niagara farmers.

About 3,000 seasonal workers from Mexico and the Caribbean began arriving this month at greenhouses in Niagara, Leamington and other parts of Ontario, said Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services, known as FARMS.

Thousands of workers come to Niagara-on-the-Lake to help plant, harvest and pack fruits and vegetables through the eight-month program.

The program has operated in Ontario for 56 years and helps fill labor shortages in farms and greenhouses across the province.

“If we didn’t have these workers, we wouldn’t have the horticultural industry,” Forth told the Lake Report.

FAARMS is a federally managed operation that plays an administrative role in the seasonal workforce program.

Many of the workers who arrived this month are doing greenhouse work. Come spring, they cut back orchards and vineyards, Fort said.

About 20,000 workers will come to Ontario this year, he said, slightly more than before the pandemic.

“What we’ve seen in the last few years is some people are switching to the (agricultural) stream,” he said.

The agriculture stream is a one to two year program while the current program is only eight months.

“Some growers now need people year-round and so some of them are reducing their (seasonal) workers a little and bringing back (agricultural) stream workers,” he said.

He pointed out that this could still be the same employee. Only the length of their contract will change.

“This program has kept the horticulture industry in place and given workers the opportunity to find work that pays more than what they are doing at home,” Fort said.

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