At Michell Farms in Saanichton the tractors are preparing the fields.
Like several farms on Vancouver Island, Terry Michell and his team rely on help from temporary foreign workers to plant and harvest their crops, but for the past two years arriving workers have been required to quarantine.
“The first year was very hectic because no one really knew what the program was going to be or when they were going to arrive,” says Michell.
“The second year went a lot smoother, there was a lot more organization and we did end up with our full crew last year with a quarantine at the Vancouver airport.”
Now it is changing, the provincial government announced Wednesday the quarantine requirement for temporary foreign workers is ending. It is a huge relief for many.
“It’s a big relief that they don’t have to do it anymore,” says Dan’s Farm & Country Market owner Dan Ponchet. “Now I can have two extra weeks of working out of the guys and they’re happy with that too, they don’t want to sit in a hotel room for two weeks.”
According to the ministry, more than 15,000 temporary workers went through the program, with just over 200 testing positive for COVID during quarantine. Now those who are fully vaccinated can skip quarantine.
“They’ll be coming directly to the farm once they arrive in Vancouver and we know that our crew is fully vaccinated because they were fully vaccinated last year when they were here,” says Michell.
The help is needed, however, farmers say it is still going to be a challenging season because of costs.
“Everything you look at is on its way up, wages have gone up, just everything,” says Michell.
“Certainly it’s going to be a big factor this year for all of us, all the extra costs that we have,” says Ponchet. “So we’re definitely looking forward to having anything that’ll help us to make things go more smoothly.”
Still, the extra help coming two weeks earlier will have those in agriculture breathing a little easier this year.