Are there migrant workers at the root of your fruits and vegetables?

by | May 9, 2024 | Food and Recipes

From asparagus and apples to peaches and parsnips, Ontario farmers grow more than 120 fruit and vegetable crops.

What many Ontarians don’t know, however, is the role that 20,000 international farm workers who come to Canada through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program or the federal Temporary Foreign Worker program play in getting those crops from plant to plate.

Unlike many other agricultural crops, fruits and vegetables often bruise or damage easily, so they need to be planted, harvested and cared for by hand instead of by machine.

Since 2015, Fernando Nieto Rodrigues has been coming to Canada to work on fruit and vegetable farms and make a better life for his family in Mexico. He’s proud of being able to send his daughter to university and of the role he plays in feeding Canadians.

“We do our work with pride, with care, and we come here to do things right. We are not just workers; we are people who come to give our best to this country, to help our economy and help Canada’s economy,” Rodrigues says.

Once here, these workers have the same employment-related rights and benefits as local workers doing the same work. In Ontario, that includes government-approved wage rates, health care under OHIP, the Canada Pension Plan, coverage under the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and more.

Leon Brown came from Jamaica to Canada annually starting in 1990. Now retired, he worked at Meyers Farms in Niagara Region until 2023.

“That was my last year in Canada. I could have stayed home, but I decided to work one more year,” he says. “I’ll be eligible for a pension when I retire. I’m looking forward to that; that’s a great opportunity.”

Learn more about Ontario’s seasonal agricultural workers morethanamigrantworker.ca

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