While seasonal workers have been arriving from the Caribbean beginning their quarantine period, growers whose offshore help comes from Mexico are still waiting, expecting it to be at least another week before they begin to arrive.
Grape grower Matthias Oppenlaender, also chair of the Grape Growers of Ontario, says the Mexican government is mostly shut down, and has been slower in releasing the permits that allow their workers to leave for Canada. He believes it’s also taking time to arrange the paperwork that will allow the planes to fly into Mexico to pick them up.
Since the government announced they would be permitted to come to Canada, FARMS, a resource organization for farmers, has been working out the logistics, but it’s been slow going, he said.
“They are coming, it’s just taking a little longer than expected.”
He is expecting about 12 workers, only half what he would normally have in the vineyards at this time of year, but he is spacing out their arrival. He has three bunkhouses, and with fewer workers, that will give them more room and make it easier for them during their 14-day quarantine, he says.
Some of them have been coming since 2004, and are trained both in the work and the use of equipment. It’s important to have that core group, he says.
But he is also training some local workers — he always does, he says, to do some hand work — but this year will hire more than usual, “as long as they will come out. They have anxiety as well.”
The offshore workers don’t require training, “and the work has to be done right, and done at the right time.”
It’s easy to keep a physical distance once they’re working in the vineyards, he added.
He is prepared to do the shopping and ensure his workers have all the supplies they need when they arrive, and once they’re done their isolation, they will have to either order online for delivery, or send one person to shop for the group. They won’t be going into town together, as they have other years.
“We will make sure we all stay safe and healthy,” he says.