January 15, 2013, Niagara Falls, Ont – 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, which was presented at the organization’s annual banquet Jan. 14.
“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. “Our industry depends very strongly on the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program as our core labour program. Without the work of FARMS, this program wouldn’t be in place and Ontarians would not be able to enjoy many of our great locally grown fruit and vegetable crops.”
Fruit and vegetable production is very labour-intensive as many crops must be planted and/or harvested by hand. They also have very specific – and often short – planting or harvesting seasons so at times a lot of work has to be done very quickly. In order to ensure fruit and vegetable farms had a steady work force, SAWP was launched in the 1960s when a group of Jamaican workers arrived in Ontario to work on horticulture farms.
In 1987, FARMS was formed to manage the program’s administration. This includes looking after transportation of workers to and from Canada, negotiating their terms and conditions of employment with both the Canadian and host governments, as well as any other issues that could affect the continued success and longevity of the program. Approximately 20,000 workers come to Canada every year through SAWP and many have been working on the same farm for 20 or 30 years.
“FARMS is a tireless advocate for labour issues in Ontario horticulture, and both farmers and the many thousands of people who come here every year to work depend on their efforts to keep the program going,” says Smith. “If Canada had no workers under SAWP, over one half of the Canadian horticulture market would be lost to imports – and many popular but labour-intensive crops could no longer be grown here.”
The OFVGA Award of Merit is presented annually to an individual or an organization that has made outstanding contributions to the fruit and vegetable industry.
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