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More than 5,000 foreign workers expected to arrive to help local farmers
BARRIE -- Spring has sprung, and work needs to be done on farms across the province.
Many fruit and vegetable growers depend on workers from Mexico and the Caribbean.
The first worker from Jamaica will arrive at Brian Gilroy's apple orchard on Friday night.
"If all goes well, every second day, there will be another flight arriving from Jamaica - Mexican workers - it's looking like after Easter," Gilroy says.
More than 5,000 workers are expected.
Agricultural workers have been deemed essential, and like all travellers, they must remain in isolation for two weeks before hitting the fields.
And Gilroy says work in many orchards already behind schedule.
"The pruning has to be done while the trees are dormant for the most part, and as we all know, Mother Nature waits for no one."
Workers are often housed in small groups, and local apple growers say they are ready to follow local health unit recommendations, but the rules may vary across the province.
The immediate labour shortage has highlighted Canada's dependency on imported food from the U.S.
"If the U.S. is going to look after itself, then maybe we will have to look after ourselves," says Barrie Hill Farm's Morris Gervais. "So figuring out how we are going to grow and harvest our crops is going to be more important than ever."
Gervais is making plans for workers coming from Mexico but hopes that students and the recently unemployed can help too, saying they could get to work immediately.
Farm labour jobs are often physically demanding and pay minimum wage, but farmers say there is no shortage of hours if local workers are willing to help.