P.E.I. potato farmers say workers are in short supply

Potato farmers on the Island say they're in dire need for more workers as the harvest season comes to full swing.

P.E.I. Potato Board says crops looking good this year

Ray Keenan says his farm is short a few workers amid harvest season. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Potato farmers on the Island say they're in dire need for more workers as the harvest season comes to full swing.

Workers are in short supply at Ray Keenan's farm in Rollo Bay, P.E.I. The potato farmer says at the moment he needs about two or three people to help get the crop in, as well as more people to work at the packing plant throughout the year.

"We've seen lately that we never have enough, we're always one or two short every day," he said. "We get most of it done, and we do get it done. But sometimes it runs to the next day."

Keenan said he's looking for workers who are familiar with the latest technology in the ever-changing agricultural industry.

"We're transitioning more into a more high-tech industry now," he said. "It's requiring just more technical skills to operate it. 

"Some of these tractors I can't even move them across the driveway anymore, they're a pretty sophisticated piece of equipment. But that's the way things are changing."

Hard work

Albie Theron works at Keenan's farm. He grew up in South Africa and studied mechanical engineering before immigrating to Canada two years ago.

"I worked a desk job for two years and I almost died. I knew that that wasn't going to work for me anymore," he said. "We ended up in P.E.I. We got a big opportunity to come in here and we got all the paperwork done."

Theron said it's hard to find the right people to work in the agricultural industry.

"Agriculture is a really hard sector to work in," Keenan said. "You need specialized people that are willing to work. It's hard hours and long hours, but the reward is also great. You need to have a passion for farming, or else it will never work."

The P.E.I. Potato Board said certified truck drivers, in particular, are in short supply.

Yields in the meantime are looking good this year, the board said.

"The growing conditions were good all summer," Keenan said. "We've had probably sometimes a little too much rain but the yields suggest we have a good quality crop coming off."

With files from Brian Higgins


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