Unless you work on a farm in B.C., you are unlikely to meet the migrant farm workers who help many of our local farmers stay afloat.
Steve Neufeld, of Neufeld Farms in Abbotsford, says his family's farm would not be able to survive without the work of hired migrants such as 52-year-old Miguel Lizama, who has worked with Neufeld Farms for 12 years.
Neufeld Farms has been growing berries, corn, cucumbers, and raising chickens for almost 40 years.
The Neufelds employ 23 migrant farm workers through a government program — the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) — that allows Canadian employers to hire temporary foreign workers for eight months at a time when a Canadian worker is not available.
For the Neufelds to be eligible to hire through the agricultural worker program, they must first post the job locally for two weeks. During that period, Neufeld says they don't ever receive viable applicants, so they go ahead and hire migrant workers.
The workers on Neufeld Farm — most of whom are from Mexico — have come to B.C. to earn money to send home to their families.
Gonzalo Baze, 51, has eight children in Mexico, who all greet him at the airport every time he returns home.
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Baze says it's hard being away from his family. He misses them and worries about not being part of their daily lives, though he knows that working on a farm in B.C. allows him to support them financially.
While in B.C., the farm workers stay at the Neufeld's farmhouse, which has several bedrooms, large communal kitchens, and a living room with couches and a TV.
During harvest season, work days last as long as 12 to 14 hours. They've come to B.C. to earn as much money as they can to send home, so there is little spare time.
Can is one of the most experienced farmers at Neufeld Farms. He ran his own farm in Mexico until a cyclone damaged it in 2002.
For the past ten years, Can, 49, has been coming to B.C. to support his five children and save enough money to start his own farm again in Mexico.
Manuel Avila, 33, says he can earn, in one hour of work in B.C., as much as he would earn in a full day working in Mexico.
Ober Najera Cruz, 48, says that his family's appreciation of the money he sends home makes the physically demanding work worthwhile.