We believe that a safe and dignified workplace is a right for all who work on our farm. Workplace dignity is defined as treating our team members with respect and trust, equal and fair treatment, valuation of one’s worth, autonomy and freedom of expression and decision making. We aim to provide a work environment that allows our employees to thrive and be productive. We support this environment through good health and safety policies and programs, including WSIB’s Health & Safety Excellence Program, of which we have been a member since 2020. We also have had our Team Leads complete Mental Health training and we aim to support any of our team members at any time with whatever they may be facing. At Pfenning’s we have always had a diverse workforce with team members from all over the world – it has always been a priority that we create a sense of community and belonging for all.
As our farm grew, so did the number of people required to get the work done. Like many others in the farming community, we struggled to find skilled local workers who would return year after year. To satisfy this need, in 2005 we turned to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) for the first time.
Currently, our farm employs around 40 migrant workers from Jamaica each year. Typically, they arrive in spring for planting season, and stay until after harvest is finished. They come here under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP), which is a branch of the TFWP.
Many of them have been returning here since 2005, and know our farm extremely well. The work they do is skilled and valuable, and this group leads the training of new local and student workers. In order to be here they are sacrificing precious time with their families, a hardship most of us cannot imagine.
They have become friends, and are very much a part of our Pfamily here.
Despite all the benefits of the TFWP, we are aware of systemic injustices and abuses that occur within this system, and we stand in solidarity against these injustices. Did you know that although TFWs are required to pay employment insurance, they are routinely denied access to these benefits? There are many ongoing issues with the SAWP – such as work permits being tied to a single employer, inadequate and unsafe housing conditions, and passports being confiscated.
At Pfenning’s, we are committed to ending the injustices and instances of exploitation workers face by advocating for TFW rights within the farming community. We do this through participation in the NFU Migrant Workers Subcommittee, media interviews, and engagement with Members of Parliament. However, this advocacy and support can only go so far, and these injustices need to be addressed through policy changes. Write to your MP and support organizations like Migrant Rights Network, Migrant Workers Alliance For Change, Justicia 4 Migrant Workers calling for necessary changes including permanent resident status for all migrant workers upon arrival. This is a necessary change for workers to be able to avail themselves of their rights.
What is Fairtrade, and what does it have to do with us?
Fairtrade is a global movement with the goal of creating and supporting sustainable food systems that offer decent working conditions and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers. When food is sold at a lower cost than it took to grow, pack, and ship, you know someone is being exploited; and that someone is likely a grower or the farm workers. The Fairtrade movement seeks to end this all-too-common exploitation.
We wholeheartedly embrace the principles of Fairtrade and support fairly-traded products whenever we can! Equifruit Fairtrade organic bananas are a staple item on our list, and are our preferred brand of banana. We distribute other Fairtrade items when they are available organically – in the past we have carried pineapple, avocado, peppers, pears, and a few varieties of squash.
While Fairtrade certification is often used in other countries it is not used in Canada and the US. We do our best to source from farms that share similar values to us like fair and dignified working conditions, and sustainability.
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