PEI

Syrian farmer learns new way of farming at Island orchard

From olives and figs to apples and berries, a farmer from Syria is now working at The Grove Orchard in Cornwall, P.E.I.

‘In our country we work by shovels, not by machines’

Grove Orchard owner Geoff Boyle and Wisam Abouassali work on an apple tree in orchard. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

From olives and figs to apples and berries, a farmer from Syria is now working at The Grove Orchard in Cornwall, P.E.I.

Wisam Abouassali, who arrived in Canada with his family in January, had worked on a farm near Damascus.

"When we first came to Canada, I really want to work in an orchard," said Abouassali. "When I get here, in this orchard, it was really so fantastic."

A good fit

Abouassali met orchard owner Geoff Boyle through the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada (PEI ANC). Boyle started the orchard four years ago, and he knew this summer would require more work.

With news of Syrian refugees coming to P.E.I., he approached the association to see if they knew of anyone looking for a farming job.

"Obviously we listen to the news and we just thought if the opportunity came along and it was a good fit, that might be something we'd be interested in," said Boyle.

And he said Abouassali has been a great fit.

"We share a lot of the same things. You know, he has a strong family, I have a strong family. So we're not that different. He works hard, and I think I work pretty hard. So we get along very well," said Boyle.

'A different kind of job'

Abouassali said he's had to adjust to many cultural changes in Canada.

"Everything in life, stores, medicine, teaching, learning. Everything is different from our country, from our homeland Syria," he said.

Along with those adjustments, he's also had to get used to a different way of farming.

"Also this kind of job here, this orchard, is also different from our country … in our country we work by shovels, not by machines," said Abouassali. "It's a different kind of job."

Wisam Abouassali sets a pole in place at The Grove Orchard in Cornwall, P.E.I. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

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