As for all small businesses, it has been challenging for us to navigate the impacts of COVID-19, and to foresee the impact of the pandemic on our farm operation and store moving forward.

With staff and public safety in mind, we have been working closely with the Grey Bruce Health Unit and following their procedures and guidelines to minimize the spread of the virus. Many of you have been curious about what we, along with other orchards in our community, are doing to help ensure the safety of our full-time and seasonal farm staff. Let us tell you how!

The Governemnt of Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) allows employers to hire temporary foreign workers (TFW) when Canadians and permanent residents are not available. Employers can hire TFWs from participating countries for a maximum period of eight months, between January 1 and December 15, provided they are able to offer the workers a minimum of 240 hours of work within a period of 6 weeks or less. SAWP was founded in 1965 and is a four-way agreement between the governments of Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico, Canadian farm employers, and the seasonal workers. The program is administered through a non-profit organization that facilitates and coordinates the requests from farmers for foreign seasonal agricultural workers. About 25,000 workers come to Canada through this program annually, and many have been working with the same farm employers for decades.

Despite international travel restrictions, G.H. Lambe and Son (like other Ontario farm operations) were very fortunate to be permitted by the government to bring our team of seasonal workers from Jamaica back to Meaford to help us harvest another crop of Georgian Bay apples. On April 7th this year, six men arrived from Jamaica to work. Each of the six men have a minimum of 10-20 years experience with us in the orchard. The skill set each person brings to the orchard is greatly needed for our season to be successful. For many of them, this opportunity to work on our farm is a very big deal as they can make more money here than back home.

As soon as they arrived to their home for the season, they were provided with all the needed essentials to begin their 14-day quarantine period. The essentials included a thermometer, daily temperature logs and symptoms chart all provided by Grey Bruce Health Unit.

The individual essential kits also included sanitizer, personal care items and disposable masks. Each gentleman for the quarantine period had their own living quarters while maintaining physical distancing from their peers. During the quarantine period the men received regular wage payment and also had groceries and essentials delivered to each person by our family while maintaining physical distancing. Once the 14 day quarantine period was over and there was no sign of risk, the men began their work in the orchard while continuing to maintain physical distancing. All working areas on the farm and our store have essential kits (hand sanitizer, equipment sanitizer, gloves and masks) available at all times. It was recommended by Public Health that our family continue to deliver personal and grocery items for each gentleman to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. Apart from COVID-19 protocols, our farm operation is inspected annually by Grey Bruce Health Unit for water testing and housing inspections. These inspections ensure that as employers, we are following the program guidelines for when the seasonal staff arrive and for the duration of the season. The orchard is also inspected by Canada Good Agriculture Practices to ensure we are following strict government health and safety guidelines, and most recently The Ministry of Labour has inspected our protocols in place to protect our seasonal staff and the orchard. I think I forgot to mention that our full time and seasonal staff are also certified with St. John’s Ambulance Emergency First Aid and CPR. Grandma Lambe’s is so grateful and blessed that these men leave their families each spring to help us bring in the harvest each and every year. We couldn’t do it without them. Our seasonal staff also place a portion of their wages back into our community by purchasing needed items for themselves and for loved ones back home. Your continued support not only helps our small family-owned and operated business, but also allows our seasonal staff from Jamaica earn a living wage for their families. Thank you for welcoming our team into our community. Times are tough, please be kind to one another. We’re all in this together and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Submitted by: Grandma Lambe’s
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