This was a major bone of contention in Canada in recent years as the government ended, changed, and re-evaluated programs. Lives of those who have settled into this country and contributed without complaining to some of our lowest paying jobs for years, have been discarded as if they were a commodity and not a human person with value. On the flip side, we have high unemployment, particularly among youth and people want to see those jobs going to Canadians first.
At Mountain View Berry Farm we have never hired foreign workers. We have hired college or high school students when we’ve needed extra help. We do that because we are high school and college teachers, and we see value in helping students get jobs that will help them pay for their education. However, we do that out of belief, not because it is profitable. If the farm was our primary source of income, we would go under for that decision alone. In a recent year we had a college student pick fruit for us, and the rate at which they picked meant that we made approximately $0.50 on each 4 L pail that we sold for $19. Temporary foreign workers generally work much more quickly. That is sad, but it is reality. I have friends in the industry that have been able to replace 6 Canadian workers with 2 TFWs. The amount they are saving in labour is the reason they have not lost their business, because before that change, it looked like that was where they were headed.
We farm because we want to raise our kids this way. We farm because we are both educators and like teaching people where their food comes from. We farm because my husband is in the military and understands that countries MUST be able to produce their own food – and we see how outside of grain and meat Alberta is moving too far away from that ideal. We do NOT farm as our primary source of income. If we did, we would not be able to live up to our ideal of hiring only local students. Unless of course people were willing to pay $40 for a pail of saskatoons ($8/lb) which isn’t likely.
My point? As you ask farmers to make moral decisions around how their food is produced, you must understand what you are asking them to do. In many cases, because of our expectations of low food cost in Alberta, you are asking them to make their business unsustainable. So please, have a strong opinion – we need consumers to push for good decisions in farming – just please back up that opinion with your wallet.
Average share of household spending on major items in Canada
Food – 18.7 per cent
Shelter – 15.2 per cent
Clothing – 8.1 per cent
Transportation – 13.1 per cent
Personal taxes – 13.5 per cent
Food – 10.2 per cent
Shelter – 19.8 per cent
Clothing – 4 per cent
Transportation – 13.7 per cent
Personal taxes – 20.2 per cent
Source: Statistics Canada
*Notice clothing is the other area where we take advantage of cheap labour in other countries and buy products that have no moral backing to them – such as keeping workers safe.