Seasonal agriculture workers are packing up and leaving the area now that the 2017 harvest is drawing to a close, but not without a warm send-off and plans for returning next year.
A Friends of Meaford Community Committee sponsored by the Brotherhood of Anglican Churchmen hosted a harvesters dinner on October 15 at the Meaford and St. Vincent Community Centre in honour of the harvesters, with Caribbean food, the Northern Lights Steel Orchestra from Bracebridge, dancing, and raffles.
The harvesters dinner is a way of honouring the seasonal workers who arrive each year to help with primarily the apple harvest, according to committee member Mary Lye. “We reap the benefits, literally speaking, of the fruit of their labours,” she said. “It’s our way of expressing gratitude.”
The Municipality of Meaford has a long history of hosting seasonal agriculture workers from Jamaica, the eastern Caribbean Islands and Mexico. Brian Gilroy owner of Nighthawk Orchards estimates this year’s seasonal worker force, male and female, to be “700 from Jamaica and 200 or more from Mexico, 98% of whom are males. A few arrive in spring for the pruning and planting season, but the majority arrive in September for six to 10 weeks for the annual harvest,” he said. “Some have been coming to the area for as many as 30 years.”
This year’s warm weather and lighter than usual apple crop meant a shorter harvest.
Lye estimated that 300-plus dinners were served, at no charge. Donations were accepted and proceeds of the meal will be used to improve quality of life for the season workers in someway. “Stay tuned for details,” she said. “We want to use the proceeds in a way that improves their lives here or in their communities back home.”
Photo: Johnny Brown entertained with a Bob Marley song during the Celebration of all Things Caribbean in Meaford harvesters' dinner on Oct. 15 at the Meaford and St. Vincent Community Centre. Johnny is one of 900 plus seasonal workers working in the area during the 2017 apple harvest. He was employed by Grandma Lambe’s.