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Getting to know who grows your food

(NC) From berries and peaches to beans and field greens, summer means many of Ontario’s fruit and vegetable crops are now in season.

A great way to learn more about how those crops are grown – and by whom – is by shopping at local farmers’ markets or stopping in at an on-farm market and chatting directly with the farmers themselves.

One of the more remarkable things you can learn is that along with thousands of local farm families and employees, Ontario’s fruit and vegetable farms employ approximately 20,000 international farm workers who fill essential jobs growing and harvesting the homegrown produce Ontarians love.

Many of these workers have been coming here for years or even decades – attracted by jobs through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the agriculture stream of the federal Temporary Foreign Worker program that are helping them build homes, start businesses and send their kids to school in their home countries.

And, Ontario farmers like Luke Charbonneau of Hi-Berry Farm near Port Elgin are eager to hire them, as agriculture has long had one of the highest vacancy rates of any sector in the country.

“This is a skilled workforce who have been coming here for 20 years. They know our business and know our operation. We certainly wouldn’t be farming without them,” he says. “We’ve become friends, have found out about their families and what motivates them to come here to Canada. They love their country. But they’re here for a reason – to make a better life for their whole families.”

Daniel Morales from Mexico has been working at Charbonneau’s farm for more than a decade, arriving in spring for planting and going home in November after the last crops, from asparagus and strawberries in spring to cabbage and potatoes in the fall, have been harvested.

“I came to work here because for me, it is a great opportunity to learn new experiences and support my family,” he says. “Canada has been a country that opens its doors to us, and the people are very friendly. They wait for us every year and welcome us as if it is our second home.”

Learn more about the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program at


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