Farm equipment mechanic shortage hitting Nova Scotia
Service centres struggle to keep up with repairs during farming season
Farm equipment service centres in Nova Scotia are juggling their repair demands as they struggle to find enough experienced mechanics.
The issue is particularly acute at this time of year when farmers need machinery repaired quickly so it can be returned to service during crucial farming season.
VanOostrum Farm Equipment near Port Williams employs nine mechanics. Owner Patrick VanOostrum said he could use another three service technicians, but he can't find them.
"Experienced farm equipment technicians are hard to come by," he said. "We struggle against the construction industry. They'd be our competitors trying to get the workforce here."
Other farm equipment service centres report similar problems. Some say they will pay up to $30 a hour for an experienced mechanic, but it's hard to compete against higher paying jobs in heavy equipment industries.
Farm equipment centres say they could raise rates, but fear squeezing farmers and making repairs unaffordable.
The shortage of farm equipment technicians has significant implications for farmers. Bernard Gerrits, a dairy and crop farmer near Port Williams, said he lost his tractor last week to a transmission problem.
"They say it may take a week before they even look at it," he said. "But I did get on my knees and they did look at it and it may be done by the end of this week."
The tractor is equipped with a global positioning system that Gerrits said he needs to spray his corn fields with herbicide. If the tractor is not repaired soon, he could miss the ideal window for spraying and his crop yields will suffer.
Nick Beck, a 25-year-old farm equipment technician, said many people his age are going into heavy duty mechanics or heading to Alberta.
"Out-West money seems pretty good some days," he said. "But if you want to be at home and there's a job here, you stay here."