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Coronavirus: Southwestern Ontario farmers seek help to fill gap left by migrant workers

So far, more than 20 people have actively engaged with a local farmer or agricultural company through the campaign, according to Smith.
So far, more than 20 people have actively engaged with a local farmer or agricultural company through the campaign, according to Smith. Nicole Mortillaro, Global News

Farmers near London, Ont., are seeking additional help this summer since migrant workers won’t be able to make the trip due to COVID-19.

Last week, a new program was introduced to connect those interested in working in the agriculture industry with employers.

“The shortage of the workforce has a major impact on [farming] operations,” said Alan Smith, the general manager of Elgin County Economic Development.
“We in Elgin County, with our neighbouring partner counties, employment services and Fanshawe College, developed this campaign and hopefully [it will] help.”
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Smith told 980 CFPL one of the goals of the campaign is to support people who are looking for work if they’re currently unemployed or laid-off due to COVID-19.

“They [can be] regular workforce or even students who would normally be employed.”

“Those individuals are available when normally they wouldn’t be, so we have gotten together and done a campaign, which brings the attention to, let’s say, students, of the work opportunities in the agricultural sector — it might’ve been a sector that they have never thought about,” said Smith.

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According to Smith, there are more than 1,500 farms in Elgin County, and they are responsible for a substantial amount of the local GDP.

“Everything from growing to production processing. … We have our local farmer markets, which are huge in the summertime for tourism.

“There’s not only a growing aspect, but a connection to agri-tourism too, and right now, that’s taking a huge hit.

“I think what COVID-19 has done is actually put a spotlight on the agricultural sector and how important it is.”

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Through the campaign, Smith says he’s hoping to bring to light the work that’s available in the agriculture sector, which is not easy but much appreciated.

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“It’s not for everyone, let’s be honest, it’s hard work.”

The campaign launched last week and Smith said it’s going well so far.

He said more than 20 people have actively engaged with a local farmer or agricultural company.

Those interested in participating in the campaign can find more information online or contact Fanshawe College.