“This is a very important program for us. It has allowed our industry to grow, and if we did not have access to these workers who do their jobs with excellence and want to work here, we could be losing jobs in a big way. Orchards in the apple industry,” says Cathy. McKay is the president of the Ontario Apple Growers and the creator of Nature’s Bounty Farms of Canada’s Seasonal Farm Worker Program (SAWP), which is trusted by many growers across the country.
Nature’s Bounty Farm has had 24 seasons with workers from Mexico, although the program in Canada started in 1966, open only to Jamaican workers. McKay says the same five Mexican workers arrive each year in late March to begin pruning apple trees, pruning trees, helping with squash and pepper crops, and starting harvest in the fall. The workers are with the farmer till the beginning of November.
Nature’s Bounty Farm is in its 24th season with workers from Mexico through the Seasonal Farm Worker Program (SAWP).
assessment of needs
To participate in the program, employers/farmers must file a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) with the federal government. Previously, part of the assessment required jobs for Canadian workers to be advertised in the first three locations, and if those efforts proved unsuccessful, employers could hire people. This condition was suspended in January 2022 and it looks like it will end next month. In total, approximately 40,000 workers immigrate to Canada each year from Mexico and participating Caribbean countries.
The program continues to help producers with a critical part of their business: access to labor, a problem that has worsened since the start of the pandemic. Mackay says, “The problem with the plantation is that there is no public transport line. We are a bit isolated and there are no workers nearby.”
To improve transparency with the public, Ontario Growers has launched www.morethanamigrantworker.ca to help share some of the stories about Ontario workers.
However, with headlines about mistreatment of activists, the program is being scrutinized by the national media at first. But also of the board of directors. “We’re always looking to improve working conditions and every year we inspect workers’ homes,” Mackay explains. “Documentation has increased over the years, and the LMIA is now more onerous than ever. We now do many more audits overall, both on paper and in person.”
To improve transparency for the public, Ontario Growers has launched www.morethanamigrantworker.ca to help share some of the stories about Ontario workers. “There are interviews and videos of various workers, some who have been there for 30 years and have built new homes and sent their children to school,” says McKay. “They also talk about how they contribute to the Canada Pension Plan so they can collect CPP when they retire in their home country. They’re also covered on health, so if they have to go to hospital, they can cover anything. Don’t pay.”
Other innovations of the program are negotiations at the federal level that make it easier for workers to obtain permanent residency. “It’s what they want. Some have farms at home: Last year all our employees told us they were going home to work in Mexico. However, they couldn’t make money there,” Mackay said. concluded.
for more information:
Ontario Apple Grower / Nature’s Bounty Farm
Phone: +1 (905) 440-0966
Publication date: Fri. June 2 2023