For the owner of Michell’s Farm, Terry Michell, the idea of a successful fall harvest was hard to imagine back in early spring.
“I would have said I don’t think it’s going to be quite that way, because there was a lot of deterrence. Every day there was something coming up,” Michell said.
Like everyone else, farmers were presented with some serious challenges when COVID-19 began spreading through British Columbia. The most detrimental, however, was the uncertainty of the arrival of the roughly 10,000 temporary foreign workers who come to work on B.C. farms every year.
The workers, most of whom come from Mexico, usually start to arrive as early as April. However, due to COVID-19, that process was delayed, leaving farmers uncertain of how much to plant.
“It was very stressful for us of course,” said the owner of Dan’s Farm, Dan Ponchet, who usually has nine foreign workers come every year.
“In the beginning I was planting a tiny bit less, thinking I wouldn’t have enough people to look after crops properly,” Ponchet said.
The Mexican workers are highly skilled and play a crucial role in planting, maintaining and harvesting crops.
Luckily, after weeks of uncertainty, the provincial government stepped in to assist by putting the workers who flew in up in Vancouver hotels to go through their mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Once the farmers knew help was on the way, it was all hands on deck to plant as much as possible.
“As more news came that our labour was going to show up, we started planting more and more. We did end up actually increasing this year overall from last year,” said Michell.
Both Michell and Ponchet say that their harvests have been very successful, despite the rocky spring.
“It’s been a nice surprise. I mean compared to what we were thinking in March and April, which wasn’t that optimistic, it seems to have turned out OK in the agriculture industry on the Island” Michell said.
Both farmers have also seen sales increases of up to 200 per cent at their markets.