Early crop leaves growers scrambling to find workers
An early crop means there are plenty of peaches, apples and pears ready to pick in Annapolis Valley orchards, but without foreign workers local growers are scrambling to harvest their crops.
Foreign workers come here from the Caribbean and Mexico in March. In a normal harvest year other hired hands transfer to Nova Scotia when the harvest in Ontario is over.
"It's a bit of a strain because Mother Nature has been so bountiful this year and everything is coming on at once," said Beth Pattillo, manager at Noggins Corner Farm.
But "this year because we are so early and they are not quite finished in Ontario it's creating a bit of a mismatch at this point in the game."
Some of the crops are ready to pick 10 days to two weeks early.
Della Erith, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers' Association, said there is still uncertainly about how changes to federal employment insurance rules could affect the number of foreign workers approved to work in Canada.
In May, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley revealed plans to reform EI.
"Our growers make application in the spring for workers they will need later on in the year," said Erith.
"They are not forthcoming about any changes they have planned for 2013."
Farm owners said there is an effort to hire local workers, but many young workers have moved west.
Picking is no easy feat. Pattillo said many Nova Scotians "don't have the physical capabilities" for the long, laborious work -- 8-10 hour days, six days each week.
She also said some workers trying to get to Nova Scotia from Newfoundland are stuck waiting for the ferry.