Nova Scotian farmer gets to know temporary foreign workers in their homeland
Josh Oulton cultivates mutual understanding by spending time with his employees in Jamaica
It's a "farming adventure" involving a role reversal that has proven beneficial for Nova Scotia's Josh Oulton and the Jamaican men he employs regularly.
Oulton hires temporary foreign workers from the Caribbean country for eight months every year. Some have been coming to his farm in the Annapolis Valley for a decade.
This year, Oulton is learning more about where his workers come from and how they live.
"It's kind of neat to be transported from our life that we know in Canada to this life, and I see that difference." Oulton says.
Many of the Jamaicans hired by Oulton have their own farms back home and Oulton helps out during his visit. If yams need planting, Oulton grabs a shovel and gets to work. It's a relationship the Canadian farmer is interested in cementing.
"I want to let them know that I'm loyal to them," emphasizes Oulton.
Helping each other
Kingsley Cockett lives in Mile Gully, Jamaica, and farms a steep valley near his home.
Oulton says he's amazed by how much Cockett gets out of every inch of the land.
And Cockett uses some of the techniques he learns in Nova Scotia, such as covering fields with straw to help them retain moisture.
"I'm learning from him and him learn from me," says Cockett.
The money Cockett earns in Nova Scotia helps pay for his children's schooling. It costs the equivalent of $100 Cdn a month per student.
Cockett's wife, Kadion Grant-Cockett, says she's used to her husband's annual departure.
"Almost every person in our community [leaves to work]," noted Grant-Cockett. "All of the men travel, some to Canada, some to America, every lady we call ourselves the single ladies."
Oulton sees parallels between his workers in Jamaica, and people in the Maritimes who travel to Alberta to find work.
He says each year a handful of Nova Scotians apply for a job on his farm in the valley. But he says they often quit when work becomes available elsewhere.
Oulton says he has great respect the work ethic of the men he hires.
"I know how these guys lived and where they grew up, and I don't know, it's just interesting to know—and I get my hands dirty."
Lending a hand
Oulton has timed his trip to Jamaica to be as productive as possible.
In the hills near Troy, another one of his workers, Kensley Richards, is adding a room to his house and Oulton spends two days pitching in to help with construction.
For Richards, working in Canada means being able to afford certain things to bring home.Some of the stuff he's bought in Nova Scoatia has made it back to Jamaica -- including a sound system.
"I have family to take care of," he said. "So I go and work and when the work is finished, you are good to come back home to family, and that is my happy wish."
Some of Oulton's workers would like to move to Nova Scotia permanently if they had the chance. Anthony Robinson is one of the youngest workers.
"Yep there are more opportunities for my kids, educational wise," he said. "I would live in Nova Scotia, I wouldn't mind."
But there's no guarantee Robinson would be granted permission to immigrate to Canada.
And so for now, Robinson is grateful for the relationship he has with Oulton in Nova Scotia.
"To come out here and see how we live and spend some time with us [and] with our family and friends? That's to show what kind of guy he is," says Robinson. "We respect him for that and we love him for that."