Okanagan farmers gathered at the Lakeside Resort in Penticton on Wednesday to talk about the challenges they’re facing.
And money is at the top of the list.
A lot of the growers are worried about the impact the pending minimum wage hike in B.C. is going to have on their bottom line.
“The minimum wage has been going up in the last few years, and at the same time, the price and the return that we got for the 2017 crop was at an all-time low,” said B.C. Fruit Growers Association president Pinder Dhaliwal.
“And the 2018 crop which we just harvested and is being marketed now is not much better.”
The minimum wage will rise to $13.85 on June 1st, 2019, to $14.60 on June 1st, 2020 and to $15.20 on June 1st, 2021
Also on the minds of Okanagan orchardist is housing for temporary foreign workers. Last year, several farmers were complaining that they couldn’t get enough workers into Canada because of red-tape.
“We had hundreds and hundreds of workers in Mexico or the Caribbean,” said Dhaliwal. “And with farming, Mother Nature does not stop.”
The wait for the foreign workers to arrive and having to pay them more is stressful — some might say depressing. And that’s where Beth Connery comes in. The Manitoba farmer — a guest speaker at the conference — brought up the issue of depression in the farming community.
“Agriculture producers are at higher risk of having depression just because of the occupation and the pressures that we’re under,” said Connery.
According to a Canadian survey of Canadian farmers:
- 45 per cent have high stress.
- 58 per cent have anxiety
- 35 per cent have depression.
Connery says aside from the financial stress, farming can be a lonely way to make a living and that loneliness can take its toll.
“You can be in your tractor for hours on end and if you have a really bad conversational loop going on in your head for hours on end, that can take a toll on you,” said Connery.
According to the BCFGA, the farming industry has one of the highest suicide rates in the industrial sector. The BCFGA says it’s an issue that has finally come to the surface and is being addressed.