‘Since COVID, it’s always been a struggle’: Victoria Daffodil farm in desperate need of pickers

WatchFacing COVID-19 and a labour shortage, A daffodil farm in Saanichton is in desperate need of finding local workers for the harvest. Kevin Charach has more.

Tim Lighthall works hard and efficiently, trying to find the perfect technique.

“There is more than enough to carry you over here for days and days on end,” said Lighthall, a Longview Farms daffodil picker who recently moved to Victoria. “So if you have the energy to do it, you can keep going for quite a long time.”

For Lighthall, Becoming the master of his daffodil domain may take some practice and repetition, something Longview Farms can happily provide.

“We have about 37 acres of daffodils,” said Emily Mceachern, lead grower at Longview Farms. “We harvest about five-to-seven million every single year.”

Mceachern admits those numbers are pre-pandemic levels, and this season may be further impacted by unseasonably mild weather.

“It’s a warm year this year so things are coming up much faster than they normally would,” said Mceachern.

The Daffodil’s need to be plucked before they bloom which could be before April if the weather stays mild, according to Mceachern. Some of the flowers are sold locally, but most are sent to distributors in the U.S. Mceachern says last year only two million daffodils were plucked and shipped, roughly 60 percent below their pre-pandemic yearly average.

“Since COVID, it’s always been a struggle,” said Mceachern. “We have our temporary foreign workers, but the rules are always changing as to how many they have to bring in and whether or not they have to quarantine, whether or not they are vaccinated, so it’s always an issue.”

Mceachern says this year is much better as COVID restrictions have eased just in time and the farm was able to scramble to bring in workers from Mexico. Finding locals, however, remains a challenge.

“We’re still not up to our full numbers and even when we are, we have to bring in Canadians because we just have that many flowers.”

Mceachern says competition for local labour remains fierce, and the farm has thus increased its pay rate and bolstered its advertising to help fill the need for workers.

“If you’re really keen and you want to work hard, then you’ll make lots of money.”

Time will tell if they can reach their goal of three million daffodils by spring. For information on how to apply at Longview Farms, click here.

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Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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