Information for the Public

Issues Background related to COVID-19

Importance of Seasonal and Temporary Foreign Agricultural Workers to Ontario

Updated: April 16, 2020

Ontario farmers are struggling to get skilled international essential labour to help plant, grow and harvest crops for the 2020 season. This is an issue affecting Ontario’s food security.

About 8,000 seasonal and other temporary workers are working in Ontario right now, primarily in greenhouses.



New Resource: Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada: Educators' Resource

Farmer Profiles

March 27, 2020       Opinion Editorial

2020 apple crop in jeopardy without essential workers on farm

By Brian Gilroy

By Ontario standards, I have a relatively small apple orchard. I grow about a dozen different varieties on 25 acres of land that looks over beautiful Georgian Bay. Even on my small acreage though, my trees produce about half a million pounds of apples annually in an average year.

Each year, I’m assisted from spring to fall by two talented employees who travel to Canada from Jamaica through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker program. Another four employees travel here each fall to help with apple harvest.



March 30, 2020     Opinion Editorial

Farmers up to the task of food production

By Charles Stevens

I’ve been growing apples and blueberries on our farm in Newcastle for 44 years. Every year, we produce 125,000 pounds of blueberries on our pick your own operation, as well as three million pounds of apples, all hand-picked, that end up on the shelves of local grocery stores across Ontario.

For all of us, spring 2020 is different than anything we’ve ever experienced. We’re worried about our health, our families and our jobs. It’s no different on the farm. We’re getting ready to plant 12,000 new apple trees this spring, trees that will start producing fruit in about three years and will do so for the next two decades. We’ve also got 2,000 new blueberry bushes that also need to be planted.



March 27, 2020     Opinion editorial

Practical solutions for seasonal workers critical to getting fruit and vegetable crops planted in time

By Kevin Howe

It’s always been important for us as farmers to get our crops in the ground on time in the spring. But it’snever been more important than it is this year when we are facing the extraordinary circumstance of a global pandemic that has turned all of our lives upside down.         



March 31, 2020    Opinion Editorial

Maintaining local food supply important in times of crisis

By Mike Chromczak

For many Ontarians, the sight of the first locally grown asparagus is the beginning of our local food season. I’m one of the farmers behind that first field vegetable crop of the year – my wife and I have been farming near Tillsonburg for 10 years, growing asparagus that is sold in retail stores across Canada from British Columbia to Newfoundland.

Asparagus is a very labour-intensive crop to grow and we rely heavily on our team of 28 seasonal international workers from Jamaica. Most of them have been working with us since the beginning and they’re an experienced and efficient crew that are an absolutely essential part of our farm.



March 31, 2020   Opinion Editorial 

Farming and food sector stepping up to pandemic challenge

By Peter Quiring

The global pandemic has created challenging times for people around the globe. I’m the founder and president of Nature Fresh Farms in Leamington, and while many people and businesses are affected by shutdowns and layoffs, we’ve been working hard to keep up with the demands of our customers.

We’re the largest independent greenhouse produce grower in Canada, with over 200 acres of conventional and organic bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers in production. We also work with many other farmers who grow for us, and our produce ends up on the shelves of major retail chains across Canada and in the United States.



March 27, 2020    Opinion Editorial

Local food production critical during times of crisis

By Shawn Brenn

In a normal year, our family farm would be busy getting ready for spring planting season. That means preparing seeds and fields and getting ready to get crops in the ground. Potatoes are our main fruit and vegetable crop, but we also grow onions and a lot of fresh, leafy greens like dill, cilantro, spinach, collards and beets. These are products you see on the shelves in your local grocery store.



March 30, 2020    Opinion Editorial

Growing local crops with skilled labour critical during times of crisis

By Dusty Zamecnik

I’m the fourth generation of my family to live and work here on E Z Grow Farms in Norfolk County, named for my grandfather Ed Zamecnik who started the farm in 1935. We’re Ontario’s largest commercial wholesale producer of high bush blueberries; selling into large Ontario grocery stores with our products hitting market in July and August.

We are also a domestic and international propagator (grower) for the greenhouse business in Canada and of strawberry plants so even if you see strawberries in grocery stores that are labelled product of Georgia, Florida or other US states, the plants likely came from our farm in Ontario.



March 31, 2020    Opinion Editorial

International workers need to get here quickly for spring planting

By Jan VanderHout

Now more than ever, we know how important it is for Canadian farmers to be able to continue to grow their crops and raise their livestock. A safe, consistent food supply is an essential service, especially during a global crisis like this when other countries around the world are facing the same problems we are.

Our family business is Beverly Greenhouses, a third-generation greenhouse cucumber farm where we grow 30 acres of English cucumbers. Consumers across southern Ontario, in Atlantic Canada and parts of the United States eat our cucumbers, which we sell directly to retailers as well as to the Ontario Food Terminal.


Opinion Editorial

Hiring local workers for on-farm jobs isn’t as easy as it sounds

By Bill George

COVID-19 has turned lives upside down right around the world. People are grappling with illness and death, with separation from family and friends, business closures, job loss, and general uncertainty about what lies ahead. 

Things are no different for farmers, but many of us who grow fruits and vegetables have the added challenge this year of trying to get our international workers here and making sure we do everything possible to keep them safe and healthy. 


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