Migrant workers essential to Valley farming

Nancy Kelly nkelly@kingscountynews.ca
Published on March 16, 2014

Katie Campbell, of Spurr Brothers Farm, and Charles Keddy, who operates a nursery stock operation in Lakeville, attended the one-day session on migrant farm worker safety hosted March 12. - Nancy Kelly, www.kingscountynews.ca

Migrant worker safety was the focus of a one-day workshop held in Greenwich on March 11.

Hosted by Farm Safety Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, the session, ‘Safety Starts with Communication’, was attended by local producers, most of whom employ seasonal offshore labour. The majority are from Jamaica and Mexico.

Nova Scotia has a very good reputation for providing safe working conditions for migrant workers, said guest speaker Margarita Caropresi, editor of AtocTli, a magazine for migrant workers.

“They come to Nova Scotia on a mission to be productive and make money and they appreciate being welcomed,” said Caropresi, who commended Nova Scotia farmers for promoting safety among workers.

Minister of Agriculture Keith Colwell said the annual influx of migrant workers is key to supporting the profitability of the province’s agriculture industry.

“Safety is also paramount in having a profitable industry. Every accident you can prevent means one more productive employee” in the workplace, said Colwell, before issuing a proclamation recognizing March 9-15 as Canadian Agricultural Safety Week and the efforts of Farm Safety Nova Scotia to advance workplace health and safety through its farm safety campaign.

Charles Keddy, who owns and operates a nursery stock operation in Lakeville, acknowledged there are challenges in promoting safety among the migrant worker population.

“There can be language barriers but also cultural barriers,” he said. “Most come from places where safety standards are entirely different, so it’s about educating them about the way we do things here.”

Keddy, who is among the close to 70 Valley producers who now employ migrant workers, said he couldn’t operate his business without them.

“I wouldn’t be in business without the migrant worker program,” which allows workers to be in Nova Scotia for up to eight months, said Keddy.