Worker Liaison Service Sets Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program Apart

Published in the January 2014 Issue Published online: Jan 17, 2014
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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — A successful program is administered by Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.). The Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) helped growers in the Canadian province of Ontario fill more than 15,000 seasonal vacancies in 2013.

Established in 1966 to respond to a critical shortage of available domestic agricultural workers, SAWP continues to serve the same role today, connecting Ontario growers with supplementary seasonal labor from Mexico, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and the Eastern Caribbean States.

Each country participating in SAWP maintains a liaison service or consulate office in Ontario to look after the general welfare of agricultural workers and help them navigate any issues or complications they may face while working in Canada.

“Liaison service is one of the unique features of our program that makes it so successful and has made it a model for similar programs around the world,” says Ken Forth, president of F.A.R.M.S. and a Lynden, Ont., broccoli grower. “There are about 380,000 temporary workers in Canada through a variety of programs and the seasonal agricultural worker program is the only one that provides workers the support of liaison services.”

Liaison services from each participating country are open year-round—their role contributes to 80 percent of the seasonal agricultural workers each year. The liaison service is instrumental in recruiting and selecting the best candidates for placement each year on Ontario farms and provides workers support on a wide range of issues during their term of employment.

“For decades, this program has provided seasonal workers well-paying employment, benefits and on-the-job educational opportunities not available at home,” Forth says. “At the same time, it gives Ontario farmers a steady source of reliable labor as a supplement to local labor.”