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A new crop of workers on Canadian farms

When Mike Deobald’s father passed away seven years ago, he moved home to take over the family farm. A neighbour helped with seeding and harvest but otherwise Mike, age 29 at the time, was on his own to manage Stone Barn Farm: a 250 cow-calf, 7,000 acres of grain, and custom spraying operation in southern Saskatchewan.

Mike noticed an ad in a newspaper about bringing Australians over as seasonal employees. He spoke with Craig Ference, managing director of Cascade Recruitment, and within a few months, he had the help he needed. “There were no problems getting them over here. About a six week turn-around with the paperwork,” Mike notes. The first year, he had Alex (23), and the second year he had Cameron (27). Both came from Australia.

Recruitment

Cascade Recruitment brings approximately 50 workers a year to meet a growing demand for seasonal help. All come as experienced farm workers. “Experience is the keyword, especially when they are being asked to work large farms with expensive equipment,” notes Craig. Most employers requesting help have large grain farms though some are cattle farms, and some are mixed.

“It was a good experience,” Mike states. “There are no language barriers and their work ethics are awesome. They are eager to learn how we farm and how our technology and equipment compares to what they have in Australia.”

Craig himself turned to hiring seasonal help from Australia for his family business starting in 2005. He lived and worked in Australia in 1999 (between high school and university) and this experience gave shape to his current position of helping other farmers find workers from abroad.

Cascade Recruitment has a good reputation for matching Aussie workers with Canadian farm families. When the Lee and Laura Brown of LLB Angus near Erskine, Alberta indicated to Craig they needed someone to help them with their 800 purebred cattle operation, Craig provided them with several applications from young farm workers in Australia looking to work in Canada. One applicant stood out in particular.

On a frigid day in January of 2011, 29-year-old Katherine arrived with her two-year work permit. She came from a large cattle operation in Australia and had “tons of experience.” Despite the challenges of winter, including learning how to drive on icy roads, Katherine adapted quickly. “It took her just two weeks to get into the job and by two months she was at full stride,” Laura states. Katherine initially lived with the Browns but now has her own place on the farm.

“There are some cultural differences between us and Australians but we are also very similar making it easy to adapt to our working situation,” Laura says. “What we needed is exactly what we got. It’s been such a positive experience for us.”

Logistics

Since 2008, Cascade Recruitment has been working with a company in Australia called Positive-Perfection and together they ensure that the logistics and paperwork are completed and that expectations on both sides have been established. For example, they recognize that some young people want to come to Canada to party and travel and are careful to select those wanting to come here to work and learn. Once the worker(s) has arrived, the employer is responsible for providing accommodation, whether onsite, nearby, or in town.

The recruitment program is so successful that it is now reaching out to bring workers from Eastern Europe, Sweden, Ireland, England, and Scotland to help on Canadian farms — also with good success.

This year, Mike has a young man from Scotland working for him. Alistair, age 23, applied for a work permit in January but did not arrive at Mike’s farm until the end of April. It was hoped he could be here in March but government changes meant it took longer to get a work visa. (Cascade Recruitment works to keep on top of changes in government programs and related paperwork.)

Alistair comes from what would be a large working farm in Scotland — 400 acres. “Coming here and seeing the size of our farms and equipment blew him away,” laughs Mike. “He loves it here and hopes to come back next year.”

For more information, visit http://positive-perfection.com. †

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