Farm labourers lacking says new report


A new report says people looking for work in Petrolia and Central Lambton should consider farming.

The Sarnia-Lambton Workforce Development Board has just released a labour market review on agriculture which shows farmers are concerned there aren’t enough people prepared to work on a farm or provide services to one of the biggest industries in the county.

Research Associate Catherine Gordon says one in every five businesses is directly related to agriculture. But there are fewer farms in Lambton – 2,153 in 2011 (according to the latest census data) down from 2,427 in 2001 – but the farms have grown in size.

Gordon says the people in agriculture which SLWDB talked to voiced concerns that they can’t find skilled labourers in Ontario to do the work on the farm. “They just couldn’t reach the people they needed…and if they did contact an employment agency they didn’t have the people with the right skills. Some basic farm knowledge is needed.”

And with fewer people growing up on the farm, Gordon says that is hard to come by.

She suggests schools may be one way to get children who may not have grown up on the farm to consider a career in agriculture. “One possibility is to figure out how to teach these farm basics to maybe high school students or to students at the colleges in agriculture programs,” says Gordon.

She’s not sure what that program might look like but she says getting teens out on the farms though internships may be one way to get teens to consider agriculture.

And while the SLWDB’s study found a need for local workers in agriculture, its report doesn’t paint a picture of a cushy job. The study found most people working on farms make about $21,000 while someone in farm support services could make about $51,500 a year. A flyer prepared for local employment agencies also warns prospective workers that during certain season farmhands are expected to work long hours.

Gordon says for now, they’re just hoping to get the word out to encourage people to consider agriculture as a career. “We are getting the information out there to get the possibilities out there at a younger age, because agriculture a huge part of our economy.”