Human Resources
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has announced an investment of up to $780,040 to 4-H Canada to host the 2017 Global 4-H Network Summit.
Published in Corporate News
The number of students studying in agriculture or ag-related programs continues to grow, as Statistics Canada data reveals there were a total of 12,168 students enrolled in these programs in 2014, a 2.7-per-cent increase from the previous year and a 16.6-per-cent overall increase from 2009-10.
Published in Corporate News
Sept. 15, 2016 - When we talk about safety, we often talk about immediate consequences. For example, getting too close to a running power take off can result in immediate, and often catastrophic consequences. It’s important to talk about preventing these life-altering incidents, but it’s also important to talk about how exposure to things in your environment can affect your health, weeks, months or even years down the road.

We make decisions daily that can affect our future selves. We’ve all taken a minute to either thank or criticize our past selves for things we’ve done or not done. Why not set yourself for a healthy future?

There are environmental exposures that occur on and off the farm that can affect our hearing, our respiratory function, and our bones and joints This advice isn’t meant to capture all of these hazards, but is to get you to start thinking about what you’re exposed to.

One of the most wonderful human functions is hearing. The boom of a well-placed slap shot, the hum of a finely-tuned engine, and the pure laughter of a baby are all small joys that we enjoy when our hearing is optimal. Unfortunately, many people experience hearing loss due to noise exposure. This loss is entirely preventable. (If you’ve already lost some hearing – you can retain what you have.) But you have to make a commitment to make some changes. Here are some easy tips to protect your hearing:

  • Recognize when you are being exposed to excessive noise. This isn’t always easy, sometimes you might not expect a task to be noisy, but if you can’t carry on a conversation with someone three feet away without yelling, it’s a good idea to remedy the situation
  • Control excessive noise. Maybe you need a new muffler on that equipment?
  • Create a noise barrier. Close the window to your truck or tractor
  • Select the quietest tool or equipment to do the job.
  • Lastly, select the best and most effective hearing protection for you. Ear plugs and ear muffs work only if you use them consistently and correctly.
Breathing is a good thing. On this, everyone can agree. Keeping our respiratory health in tip-top shape means being aware of the hazards that occur on the farm. Unfortunately, farmers and farm workers have the potential to be exposed to a tremendous variety of respiratory hazards. Some of the most common respiratory hazards include: grain dust, crop protection residues, waste and waste byproducts from insects and animals, and exhaust and fumes from equipment and tools. The health consequences from exposure to these respiratory hazards is long and complicated and varies in severity from mild to catastrophic. Keep these tips in mind:
  • Decrease the generation of dusts and gases by improving management procedures or through engineering controls. An example would be reducing the distance the grain falls when unloading. A short fall means less dust.
  • Remove any contaminants that are in the air. Have good ventilation!
  • Use the right kind of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job. Make sure the PPE fits, is comfortable and most importantly, wear it! (And replace it once it becomes dirty or worn.)
(These tips do not take into account confined spaces which are very hazardous and require extensive training and equipment to enter safely.)

Creaky bones, sore knees and hip and achy backs are all too common in the farming community. Farmers start out young and strong, but eventually all that repetitive lifting, kneeling, stooping, twisting and shoveling catches up resulting in conditions like arthritis, repetitive strain injuries, tendonitis, muscle inflammation and chronic pain.
  • Try to vary your posture, especially when bending over or when your hands are over your head.
  • Practice good lift hygiene. Lift properly and keep the load close to your body. Ask for help for heavy loads or use a mechanical solution.
  • Use well-maintained, proper tools for the task. Let the tool do the work, not your body.
  • Limit your exposure to vibrations. On older tractors, use vibration-dampening seat cushions. Take breaks from equipment that causes your body to vibrate.
It’s easy to forget that each thing that we do can affect our health in the future. Reminding ourselves that although we may not immediately feel the effects of bad decisions, it can damage our health and vitality in the future.

For more information about farm health and safety, please visit
Published in Corporate News
Sept. 9, 2016 - Augers and the dangers associated with grain are well-known hazards during harvest. Protocol for safely working around these elements should be outlined and communicated with co-workers to minimize or eliminate the risk of injuries. When using an auger, one person should be designated as being in charge of the task, and be sure that the equipment is periodically inspected during operation. While the auger is running:
  • Observe work area restrictions
  • Keep all safety shields and devices in place
  • Make certain everyone is clear before operating or moving the machine
  • Keep hands, feet, hair and clothing away from moving parts
  • Shut off and lock out power to adjust, service, or clean the equipment
“Grain handling entrapments can happen very quickly,” says Nicole Hornett, farm safety coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “Flowing grain can draw a person down within seconds. High capacity equipment, such as wagons paired with large diameter augers, can be extremely efficient at unloading grain. Flowing grain can pull children and adults down quicker than one thinks they can react.”

The best way to reduce the risk of grain entrapment is to eliminate the situation. Farm workers, however, are exposed to some risks. To reduce risk, follow these guidelines:
  • Consider all alternate methods to free up grain before resorting to entering a wagon or bin. Bin entry should be the last resort.
  • Lock out power to all types of grain handling equipment - disconnect power and place locks over operating switches
  • Always use the buddy system when you are unloading or loading grain - quickly stopping an auger could mean the difference between an entrapment or a fatal engulfment
  • Never enter a bin when grain is caked or spoiled - mouldy, wet grain clumps and, as it is unloaded, a large air pocket can form just below the surface creating a ‘grain bridge’ that can collapse at any time
“Make this year’s harvest season one where everyone gets home safe and healthy at the end of each work day,” says Hornett. “Whether it is shift work with an extended team of farm hands or a few family members, make the plan work for safety. With all the potential hazards during fall work, it takes some discussion and planning to ensure everyone is on the same path to a safe and bountiful harvest.”
Published in Machinery
August 17, 2016 - "I can’t. I don’t want to. You can’t make me."

Coming from a child, talking about a math problem or a difficult chore, adults would accuse them of having a negative attitude. But children are not the only ones that can suffer from a negative attitude. Could a negative attitude be preventing you from having a safe farm?

Having a safe farm is a priority for almost all farmers. But is this just all talk? According to an survey conducted by Farm Credit Canada, 75 per cent of farmers feel the work on their operation is done safely most of the time, however more than 40 per cent of the same respondents have reported a personal injury, family member injury or employee injury on their operation. This begs the question: if most work is being done safely, why are people still getting hurt?

Time, money, old habits - these are common responses when asked what obstacles to improving safety are. However, a negative attitude towards safety can impact job performance and increases the chance of getting injured. One of the biggest negative attitudes when it comes to safety is “accidents happen”, or “it was a freak tragedy”. These statements are simply untrue.

Recognizing that accidents are not only predictable but preventable as well, is the first step in having a good attitude around safety and injury prevention. Sometimes it might be uncomfortable or time consuming to think about safety and injury prevention, but those inconveniences are minor when it comes to preventing an injury or even a fatality.

When it comes to day to day attitudes, first, avoid becoming fatigued or overly hungry or thirsty. No human does their best under these conditions. Being tired can slow down your reaction time and can influence your decision making skills. Being hungry, well, that can just make you irritable, easily annoyed and even reckless. Addressing basic needs like rest, food and drink can go a long way in maintaining a good attitude.

Another negative attitude that can affect your farm and your safety is complacency. After performing a job many times without a problem, you may believe you’re experienced enough to skip steps. That’s exactly when an injury can happen. It’s important to follow your established safety procedures each and every time you perform a task.

Emotions are good and normal. It’s okay to be upset or angry at a situation. But it’s not okay if you let those emotions get in the way of performing your task correctly. Being angry or upset can lead people into being reckless or in making hasty decisions. Take the time to calm down, or to figure out a solution before performing your task. Sometimes, a task can be frustrating. We’ve all been in the position where, no matter what you do, nothing you do seems to go right. This can be annoying, frustrating and infuriating! Walk away, calm down and then restart. This goes for everything from fixing machinery to sorting calves. Take a moment (it doesn’t have to be hours) to take a few deep breaths. Regroup. And restart.

Lastly, ask for help! You aren’t in this life alone. Many people including agri-retailers, medical professionals, family members, neighbours and friends are there for you. We all need help sometimes. It can be as simple as asking for clarification on a new crop protection product from your local ag rep or as complex as dealing with a health crisis. Not knowing, or feeling overwhelmed is totally okay, just ask for help when you need it.

Maintaining a positive attitude will help reinforce the importance of doing farm work safely. Having a good attitude about farm safety costs no dollars, but it is an investment in time and in thinking and that investment can pay off in spades in having an injury-free farm.

For more information about farm safety, visit
Published in Corporate News
August 12, 2016 - Owning a farm or other business is much more than a way to make a living; it is a way of life. Everyone involved in business knows there are occasionally some very stressful times. During busy seasons or critical production periods, it is normal to be faced with time constraints and work pressures. If you are also faced with major financial issues, these pressures can be multiplied many times over.

Unfortunately, at times, these demands can put everyone involved in the business under a great deal of stress. With so many potential challenges (many of which are out of your control), it is important to identify practical ways of coping.

Before learning to manage this stress, it is critical to be able to identify it in yourself and in others. By identifying it, you can then take action to reduce it. Some strategies to help manage this stress are outlined in this Factsheet.
Admitting you are stressed about family or business isn't a sign of weakness - admitting it is the first step towards handling it.

Signs of stress
Stress manifests itself in different ways in different people. Below are some of the more common signs; the list is not meant to be comprehensive. They can be organized into four categories.

Behavioural indicators
  • resentment
  •  "using" people
  •  irregular personal care
  •  isolation
  •  active protesting
  •  staying in bed all day
Physical signs
  • insomnia
  • fatigue
  • eating too much or too little
  • excessive drinking
  • excessive smoking
  • stomach cramps
  • child/spouse abuse
  • high blood pressure
  • teeth grinding
  • diarrhea/constipation
  • head/back/neck pain
Emotional indicators
  • frustration
  • anger
  • bitterness
  • shouting/screaming
  • crying
  • withdrawal
  • depression
  • guilt
  • nervousness
  • mood swings
  • worrying
Psychological signs
  • negative attitude
  • feeling worthless
  • feeling a failure
  • fear of people
  • hopelessness
  • forgetfulness
Strategies to manage stress
Managing stress takes daily practice, discipline and a deliberate effort. You need to understand how to manage your stress, how to accept the uncontrollable factors and work on the ones you can control. You must develop strategies that work for you.

Your reaction or attitude towards a particular event or situation is a major factor in reducing stress. For example, if a loved one is late, and you immediately jump to the conclusion that they've had an accident, you will experience more stress than if you assume they are just running behind.

  • Controllable vs. uncontrollable - Know the difference between what you can and cannot control. Take action to change what you can. Accept the rest. Ask yourself: "What will happen if I ignore this?"
  • Look for the light - Most situations can be viewed from several different angles. Most of the time it is possible to put a positive spin on a stressful situation. Adopt a winning attitude.
  • Approach a situation as a challenge, not a crisis - Stop worrying and start problem solving. Problem solving is the proactive approach to finding solutions to controllable problems.
  • Give yourself credit - Set realistic daily goals and then rejoice in what you accomplish each day. Don't dwell on what you didn't get done.
  • Be proactive rather than reactive - When you look at a situation, take charge and become involved - don't sit on the sideline.
Many businesses have many stressors all at once. Here are some hints to manage various events and situations.

  • Don't procrastinate - Plan ahead and get things done. Before equipment is needed for next season, replace worn parts, change the oil (if necessary) and do regular maintenance. When buildings are empty, clean up and do repairs. Plan ahead financially - including provision for unexpected cash requirements.
  • Practise time management and set priorities - List what you want to get done in a day or a week. Rank your plans from 1 to 3, starting with the most urgent. Start with the "1's" and work through your list. If the "3's" don't get done, they were not that important in the first place. Always expect the unexpected and make contingency plans.
  • Prioritize stressors - Decide which stressors you want to deal with and which ones you do not. Giving some priority to stressors will help you spend your energy wisely.
  • Say no - Many people find it hard to turn down a request because they do not want to be viewed negatively as a "non-participant" or "difficult." How-ever, sometimes you just have to refuse extra commit-ments because you do not have the time. You can still help by offering an alternate suggestion.
  • Take the engineer's approach - Engineers are trained to break big projects into smaller, more manageable parts. As each step is finished, celebrate the accomplishments.
Source and reaction
If you seriously want to ease stress, determine the source, then manage your reaction.
  • Listen to your body - Pay attention to physical, mental and emotional signs of distress, such as fatigue, carelessness, aches and pains. Change your pace or activities.
  • Take care of your physical and mental self - Get adequate rest, nutrition and exercise. Well-nourished, rested people withstand stress better. Those who work in a physical environment, such as construction or farming, contend they get enough exercise at work. However, by adding walking, dancing or running, for example, you increase your pulse rate and bring fresh oxygen to your muscles. Stress is reduced in the process.
  • Work off your anger -Redirect any built-up anger into something positive, such as chores. Later, after the initial anger has passed, formulate your anger into words. Pinpointing the real feelings that led to the anger will help resolve not only the immediate difficulty, but other problems as well.
  • Take relaxation breaks - Several times a day, take three deep breaths, hold, tense and relax each part of your body. Let your mind wander, where you imagine yourself in some restful spot for a few minutes.
  • Balance work and play - Plan time for activities that give pleasure and provide balance.
  • Talk it out - Find someone to talk to about your worries and frustrations. Get professional help when needed. There are times when everyone can benefit from mental health agencies, crisis hot lines or private counsellors.
  • Stop worrying about what others think - If you worry too much about your image in the community, you'll come to question everything you do - How does it look to the neighbours? This increases stress when things are not going well. Remember others are more concerned about their own image than yours.
  • Look for your own positive feedback - Running a business can be very rewarding, but at times there is very little feedback. Find those things that give you positive feedback. Enjoy it when you are paid a compliment.
  • Develop a support network - Sometimes it is difficult to reach out and ask for help, especially if your finances are the core issue. Talk to your spouse, partner and family. When appropriate, your friends and neigh-bours can provide a tremendous support network. Sharing ideas, concerns and working out solutions together will help you feel less isolated.
  • Look for the humour in everything you do -Laughter is good medicine. Positive thoughts and humour will help maintain perspective when you tackle serious problems.
It is important to realize that not everyone sees a situation the same way. What is stressful to one person may not be for another. Individuals must be sensitive to this reality and try to understand others' reactions.

Furthermore, there are times when professional help may be required. It is important to understand that if the situation is serious, it is time to consider professional assistance.

It is useful to remember that most stressful situations will pass. Although it can be very hard at the time, focus on the good and enjoyable times.To access financial and business information and services, visit our website at

Coping with Farming Pressure. Home Economics Section, Manitoba Agriculture. Winnipeg, Manitoba. 1999.

Making the Most of Your Stress. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. 1991.

Managing Stress: Keeping the Pieces Together. Home Economics Section, Manitoba Agriculture. Winnipeg, Manitoba. 1999.

Network Supports. Challenges Newsletter, Manitoba Agriculture. May 1999.

This document is intended as general information and not as specific advice concerning individual situations. The Government of Ontario assumes no responsibility towards persons using it as such. In certain circumstances, professional help may be required. It is important to understand that if the situation is serious, professional assistance should be sought.
Published in Corporate News
August 4, 2016 - Van Raay Paskal Farms Ltd. (VRP Farms) is located near the rural Alberta town of Picture Butte – about 240 km south of Calgary with a population of 1,650.  VRP Farms owns and operates seven feedlots housing up to 130,000 head of cattle and crops more than 22,000 acres that produce barley, corn and wheat silage/roughage for the feedlot cattle. Essential to the farm’s success are its approximately 170 employees.

In order to attract and retain that size of a workforce, the farm first expends extensive efforts to hire Canadian workers, and then the remaining positions are filled by Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) primarily from Mexico, the British Isles and South Africa. To reduce its on-going labour shortage, VRP Farms has developed a process where it assists these TFWs through the steps needed to achieve permanent resident status and eventual Canadian citizenship by completing significant on-the-job training and developing the unique skills needed for working with cattle on a feedlot.

“It’s a win – win situation,” explains Jolayne Farn, human resource manager for VRP Farms. “VRP Farms has created a pathway to citizenship for foreign workers so they can stay, thus ensuring that VRP Farms has enough employees long-term and the workers can build their future in Canada. So far we have had a strong response and much success.”                                                                               

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has studied the VRP Farms example of successful workforce retention so that others can emulate their best practices. CAHRC’s mandate is to help alleviate the chronic labour shortage facing Canadian agriculture through its Labour Market Information (LMI) research and developing appropriate labour support tools. CAHRC recently released research indicating that annual farm cash receipt losses to Canadian producers due to job vacancies are $1.5 B or three per cent of the industry’s total value in sales. The current gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce is 59,000 and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs.

“New Canadians have long been an under-represented group within the agricultural workforce,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of CAHRC. “Van Raay Paskal Farms has developed an effective labour solution with their training and retention process. CARHC is sharing this case study so that others may learn from it.”

VRP Farms’ approach to labour identifies several aspects that are key to their success:

Excellent orientation program for new arrivals: All new employees are picked up at the airport and lodged in a hotel until suitable housing is found. They are never alone at the start of their employment.

Opportunities for advancement: All employees are provided with opportunities to grow. Training and development is part of the standard employment package. Several of VRP Farms’ workers who arrived as temporary foreign workers have since become Canadian citizens, have been with the company for eight years and have advanced into management positions.

Personal loans: Employees are provided with a $5000 loan to assist in purchasing a vehicle, furniture, a horse for pen riders, etc. This loan is paid back through small pay deductions over a period of two years.

Knowledge sharing: Employees are provided with every opportunity to share their knowledge and experience. While they are learning from VRP Farms, VRP Farms is also learning from them.

Translators:  VRP Farms has Spanish translators to ensure Mexican employees fully understand any information being provided to them.

Employee referral program: The referral program is two tiered; the person that refers a potential hire receives $75 after the recruit’s first six weeks are completed, then another $75 at the end of the recruit’s probation period.

Van Raay Paskal Farms is just one of many case studies being done as part of CAHRC’s LMI research into reducing barriers to agricultural employment for new Canadians.

For more information on CAHRC’s LMI project visit The LMI research is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.
Published in Corporate News
July 15, 2016 - Aches and pains are common afflictions of everyday life. Stiff knees, sore feet and back pain are all too common. Back injuries can be chronic (long-term) or short-term and can affect everyone at some point in their life. Back pain, especially lower back pain is a common work-related issue that affects many farmers from farms both small and large.

Back pain can be caused by many factors and can affect anyone, young or old. Farmers are especially at risk because work done on the farm can include activities that are factors for developing back pain. Some risk factors for developing back pain include:
  •         Awkward body posture while working
  •         Driving farm equipment for long periods of time that cause your whole body to vibrate
  •         Slips and falls
  •         Lifting objects heavier than 25 pounds or repeatedly lifting lighter objects
Most lower back pain caused by overexertion is short-lived and usually resolves on its own. However, having back pain for any amount of time can be a real problem. If severe enough, back pain can lead to a hard time walking or sitting, let alone doing any farm work.

What can be done to help reduce the risk of having back pain? There are some easy steps to remember to help reduce the likelihood of spending the next few days in pain.

Start by recognizing high-risk activities. Are you spending an extraordinary amount of time in equipment? Are you lifting awkward or heavy loads? Is there a tripping hazard that could lead to a fall? Once you realize that there could be a potential for creating back pain, take some steps to help yourself.
  1.           Avoid prolonged, repetitive tasks. (Ask somebody to help out! Take turns.)
  2.           Practice good lifting hygiene. (Use your legs!)
  3.           Alternate between heavy and light work tasks.
  4.           Take frequent rest breaks.
  5.           Before starting a task, consider how it could be done differently.
  6.           Address tripping hazards.
There are also things that you can do to strengthen your body against the suffering of back pain. Don’t wait until you are in severe pain to start! Exercising, strengthening your core, stretching and eating well can not only safeguard against back injury, it can also lead to optimal health.  

If you’re back pain doesn’t resolve itself or is unbearable, seek the advice of a doctor or other medical professional. Don’t ignore the pain and hope it goes away. Medical treatment and rehabilitation may enable you to continue working and functioning. By addressing the issue, you could prevent further pain.

For more information about farm safety, visit CASA’s website at

As a national, non-profit organization, CASA promotes farm safety in the agricultural sector. CASA’s vision is a country where no one is hurt farming and CASA works with partners in government, business, and farming organizations across the country to support initiatives that equip producers, their families and their workers with the information and tools needed to make farms a safe place to live, work and play.
Published in Corporate News
July 15, 2016 - Helping your co-workers too often can lead to mental and emotional exhaustion and hurt your job performance, a new study suggests.

Reporting in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Michigan State University’s Russell Johnson and colleagues say the depletion effects were especially strong for employees with high “pro-social motivation” – or those who care deeply about the welfare of others.

While previous research on helping has focused largely on the effects of the beneficiaries, this is one of the first studies to focus on the helpers.

“Helping co-workers can be draining for the helpers, especially for employees who help a lot,” said Johnson, associate professor of management. “Somewhat ironically, the draining effects of helping are worse for employees who have high pro-social motivation. When these folks are asked for help, they feel a strong obligation to provide help, which can be especially taxing.”

Sixty-eight employees in a variety of industries, including finance, engineering and health care, participated in the study by filling out surveys in the morning and afternoon for 15 consecutive workdays. The surveys measured depletion using a previously established scientific scale and helping through another scale that asks questions such as “Today, I went out of my way to help co-workers who asked for my help with work-related problems.”

The findings suggest employees should exercise caution when agreeing to help because helping may leave them depleted and less effective at work. On days when employees find themselves engaging in unusually high amounts of helping, they can attempt to bolster their energy by the strategic use of breaks, naps and stimulants like caffeine.

Help-seekers, on the other hand, should realize that asking for help, especially multiples times a day, has detrimental effects on the employees who are helping.

“This is not to say that co-workers should avoid seeking help, but that they ought to consider the magnitude and solvability of the issue before doing so and avoid continually seeking help from the same person,” the study says.

On the bright side, when helpers are thanked or made aware of the positive results of their actions, this can minimize and may even reverse the effects of depletion. “Thus, help-seekers can reduce the burden they place on helpers by clearly expressing the positive impact that helping had on them,” the study states.

Johnson’s co-authors are University of Florida researchers Mo Wang and Klodiana Lanaj, who earned a doctorate degree in business administration from MSU.

Johnson’s other research has looked at how bosses’ ethical behavior can break bad, workplace negativity can hurt productivity and nighttime smartphone use can zap workers’ energy.
Published in Corporate News
July 8, 2016 - If you have been employing people long enough you have likely run into the situation where you needed to let an employee go. This could have been for a variety of reasons; unsatisfactory performance, gross misconduct, or a loss of the position. It’s not an enjoyable process, and unfortunately that causes many managers to avoid solving the problem.

When do you know that it’s time to part ways?
If there is gross misconduct (things like violence, especially when somebody is hurt; theft; and drug-related offenses), the decision has likely already been made. The only consideration here is that you might consider suspending the employee until you have had a chance to fully understand what happened and listen to the employee’s side of the story.

In the case of unsatisfactory performance, you should ask yourself “Have I/we tried everything to help this employee succeed?”. Have you provided adequate, on-going and progressive training that provides the employee with the knowledge and skills to succeed? Have you provided adequate documented feedback to allow the employee to correct their performance? How would you rate yourself on your management of employees, and specifically this employee? Are you being fair with all employees, are you holding all employees accountable for their actions and performance? Is your hiring process sufficient to find good employees that are the right fit for your farm?

The point of these questions is to determine your responsibility in this employee not performing satisfactorily. Managers don’t need to take all of the responsibility for employee performance, but they should try to understand their part in the problem and seek to improve upon their employee hiring, training, and management skills.

Ongoing documentation should be kept on performance, conduct, and changes in job descriptions that may have caused you to part ways with an employee. If an employee believes that you have let them go based on their age, and you do not have documentation on file showing your reasons for termination, you may be putting yourself at risk. Assurances of a job as long as work is acceptable (in writing or verbally) may put you at risk of an implied contract. If you have an employee handbook you need to follow what is written in it, especially in regards to disciplinary action and firing. Court costs alone should cause employers to make sure that they have their reasons documented and that they are being consistent with all employees.

Don’t put off the decision hoping the problem will go away.
Unfortunately, fear of legal action and conflict avoidance can often cause employers to let a problem employee continue to work on the farm. This can have negative impacts on other employees and overall farm business health and production. Too often I have heard from employers that delayed action with an employee that had a bad attitude and/or was insubordinate. When action was finally taken the employer found out from other employees that things were much worse than previously thought.

Research shows that good employees want employers to hold all employees accountable to set standards. When employees perceive their employer not holding all employees accountable to the same set of standards, teamwork and productivity suffer on the farm. If you are not parting ways with employees that need to leave the farm, you are sending the message to the rest of the employees on what is most important to you.
Published in Corporate News
June 28, 2016 - As a chronic shortage of domestic workers on Canadian farms intensifies, demand is continuing to grow for a 50-year old labour program that helps Ontario farmers remain viable.

The internationally acclaimed Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) will supply Ontario fruit and vegetable growers experiencing domestic labour shortages with approximately 17,000 seasonal workers from Mexico and the Caribbean this growing season.

“For five decades this program has provided Ontario farmers a steady source of reliable labour as a supplement to local labour,” said Ken Forth, President of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.AR.M.S.), which administers the program. “Without it, many of these growers simply couldn’t stay in business and that would destroy an industry that’s crucial to our economy.”

A severe shortage of domestic workers is costing Canadian farms approximately $1.5 billion per year and hurting Canada’s overall economic competitiveness, according to recent labour market research by the Conference Board of Canada.

The labour shortage is projected to grow dramatically over the next decade — nearly doubling to 114,000 workers needed by 2025, compared to demand for 59,000 workers today, according to the Conference Board of Canada study.

But farmers aren’t the only ones affected by the shortage. In some cases, unfilled jobs at Canadian food processing plants mean food produced in Canada has to be processed in the U.S. or Mexico and then imported back into Canada, raising the cost for consumers. The labour shortage also threatens to affect food security and safety for Canadian consumers, as well as the export potential of Canada’s entire agri-food industry.

“If we don’t have enough workers to grow and harvest these crops, this industry just won’t be here,” said Forth. “We need programs like SAWP to keep our farms running and keep this industry successful.”

Because SAWP is a “Canadians first” program, supplementary seasonal farm labour is hired from partner countries only if agricultural operators cannot find domestic workers to fill vacancies.

The economic success of individual farmers benefits Ontario’s overall economy. It’s estimated that at least two jobs for Canadians are created in the agri-food industry for every seasonal worker employed through SAWP at Ontario farms.

Recent labour market research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council cited SAWP as a key reason Ontario’s horticulture industry is able to generate $5.4 billion in economic activity and approximately 34,280 jobs.

At the same time, the program provides approximately seasonal workers well-paying employment, benefits and educational opportunities not available at home.

“From another perspective, there are 17,000 SAWP workers in Ontario and 30,000 nation-wide who rely on this opportunity to enhance their lives by giving themselves a better lifestyle and educating their children at the university level,” Forth said. “Assuming each worker directly affects five in his or her family, that’s 150,000 people whose lives are enriched by SAWP.”

More information about Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) can be found at
Published in Corporate News

June 15, 2016 - The sun is a major occupational hazard for anyone who works outdoors. There are over 264,000 farmers in Canada who spend most of their workday in the sun. This means that Canadian agricultural workers are in the highest risk category for sun exposure, according to CAREX Canada.1 Sun exposure increases your risk of heat stress, skin cancer, and eye diseases – but the good thing is that these conditions are preventable!

Canadian Agricultural Safety Week in March is always a great reminder about the importance of keeping farmers and their families safe, but we don’t always focus on sun safety. Sun Awareness Week (held June 6-12, this year) is about raising awareness of sun safety at work and in your free time. Addressing the sun as a workplace hazard for both heat and ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important to keep outdoor workers safe. Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canada, and heat stress is a common – sometimes deadly - issue for outdoor workers.

Sun Safety at Work Canada is a national project that is enhancing sun safety for outdoor workers. We know that addressing the sun as a workplace hazard can be challenging, Sun Safety At Work Canada is trialing sun safety programs with 15 outdoor workplaces and are developing resources and a website to help workplaces (including farms) enhance their sun safety.

Just like any other workplace hazard, Sun Safety at Work Canada recommends that workplaces include a sun safety program in their occupational health and safety management system or program.

For farms, trying to control sun exposure by elimination or substitution is simply not possible. Instead, consider engineering controls such as adding shade structures to equipment, like tractors and combines, using air conditioning in rest areas and vehicles, and installing UV protective films to windows. Look for a local service provider who installs vehicle window tinting – you might need to find a company that comes to your farm to apply the UV protective films. Administrative controls that may be possible for farms include conducting regular risk assessments for heat and UV, scheduling work to minimize sun exposure, posting and talking about the daily UV index and humidex, and training sessions on sun safety. Farmers should also wear personal protective equipment such as loose clothing and breathable long sleeves and pants, wide brimmed hats, UV protective eyewear, and sunscreen.

For farmers, there are six simple steps for heat safety and six simple steps for UV safety. To protect yourself from UV from the sun:

  1. Cover up: Wear loose clothing, long sleeves and pants.
  2. Protect your eyes: Use ultraviolet (UV) protective eyewear.
  3. Cover your head, neck and ears: Wear a wide brimmed hat, or hard with a brim - and use a neck flap.
  4. Take your breaks in the shade: Get out of the sun when you can, especially between 11am-3pm, when UV is the strongest.
  5. Use sunscreen and lip balm: Use at least an SPF 30 broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen and don't forget to reapply.
  6. Be skin safe: Report changes in skin spots and moles to your doctor as soon as possible - early detection is important.

To protect yourself from heat from the sun:

  1. Know the signs and symptoms of heat stress.
  2. Watch out for symptoms in yourself and others.
  3. Wear sunscreen, a hat, and lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
  4. Drink water often - avoid drinks with alcohol and caffeine.
  5. Take breaks in the shade and more oten on hot days.
  6. Know how your workplace deals with heat stress.

To enhance sun safety in your farm, visit for examples of resources that are available now. The project website with all resources and step-by-step instructions for implementing sun safety will launch in summer 2016. Sun Safety at Work Canada is funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and Health Canada. Contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information.

1CAREX Canada generates evidence-based carcinogen surveillance for Canada.

Published in Corporate News

Almost a year of research is coming to fruition for the Supporting the Advancement of Women in Agriculture (SAWA) project and the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) says results indicate that more needs to be done to increase gender diversity in leadership roles in the industry.

Published in Corporate News

April 11, 2016 - The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) is working with the Saskatchewan Abilities Council to match people with disabilities with job opportunities in agriculture. 

This work is part of CAHRC’s Labour Market Information (LMI) research examining workforce potential and possible barriers with under-represented groups such as people with disabilities, Aboriginal people and immigrants in the agriculture and agri-food industry. The research will also identify labour and skill gaps, investigate opportunities and barriers, and examine future labour trends to clarify Canada’s agricultural labour market situation and future requirements provincially, nationally and by commodity.

In support of the Addressing Barriers research, CAHRC has two pilot projects currently underway in which employment coordinators are working with agricultural businesses to place potential workers. One is with the Saskatchewan Abilities Council in Saskatoon and the other is the Calgary Catholic Immigrant Society. Both of these initiatives are working to pair their respective clientele with employers in the area from now through to the fall of 2016. Information and lessons learned from these projects will be applied to help other similar placements across the country.

“This project provides many benefits for all involved,” says Emily Hurd, Senior Supervisor, Saskatchewan Abilities Council. “For agricultural employers it is an opportunity to gain a richer understanding of persons with disabilities and the wide range of skills and abilities they can bring to the workplace. For persons with disabilities, it is an opportunity for them to apply their diverse range of skills, abilities and qualifications while learning more about the agricultural industry.”

“The Council is continually working with numerous groups to develop and enhance the agricultural and agri-food workforce for Canada,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, Executive Director of CAHRC.  “There are many stimulating and rewarding careers in agriculture and agri-food and we want to ensure that people – both potential employers and employees - know about the opportunities that are available.”

The research has shown that the key reason why potential workers in these under-represented groups and their employment services agencies do not consider work in agriculture is because they don’t know or understand the skills needed or the jobs that are available. Other detractions include lack of transportation in rural areas, communications and language barriers, and perceptions of employer attitudes.

“There are limitless opportunities in agriculture and agri-food today,” explains MacDonald-Dewhirst. “We are working with our stakeholders through our projects and research to grow the agricultural workforce for Canada including initiatives to employ people with disabilities and attract groups currently under-represented in the agricultural workforce.”

Published in Corporate News

April 5, 2016 - On March 15, 2016, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) released preliminary findings from their Labour Market Information research – and it was not a rosy picture. There is currently a labour shortage of 59,000 agriculture employees across Canada and that is expected to rise to 114,000 by 2025.

The three main factors attributed to the labour shortage are that the work is seasonal; the wages are relatively low compared to other sectors; and it's difficult to get people to live in rural areas. On the operator side of the labour force equation, the aging demographic of Canadian farmers have them retiring at a rate far greater than new farmers are getting into the business.

According to Theresa Whalen with the CAHRC, when farmers were asked what impact the labour shortage was having on their farms, they said it means losses of opportunity and therefore money. The research indicated that one in five operators has reduced their interest or ability to invest in business growth due to chronic labour shortages. That losses in business opportunities added up to $1.5B per year or three per cent of the agricultural industry's total value in sales and production.

"This figure only takes into account primary production as food and fibre processing were not part of the research," noted Whalen. "Further, the situation also negatively affects the export potential of Canada's entire agri-food industry."

CAHRC will be rolling out more new Labour Market Information this spring with specifics broken down by province and commodity. As part of the rollout, CAHRC is offering "sneak peek" webinars to commodity associations and provincial ministries to assist them in understanding the research results and what it means to them specifically. The webinars offer an opportunity to ask questions and understand what the data is saying so more meaningful communications materials can be prepared, such as news releases, and have them vetted by CAHRC for accuracy prior to release. Ultimately, the "sneak peek" offers commodities a "no surprises" path forward from the research.

"It is imperative that we align our research with the needs of farmers," explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of the CAHRC. "So far we have done webinars with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. Both found it very valuable to ask questions of the research team to clarify the current state of labour in the industry. The Council will continue working with them to help find solutions. This labour shortage issue will not be resolved easily – we are all going to have to work together to find the solutions."

The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council works with industry leaders, governments and educational stakeholders to research, develop and communicate solutions to the challenges in employment and skills development in primary agriculture. The Council now leads collaborative implementation efforts in support of the national Workforce Action Plan for the agriculture and agri-food sector. For more information visit


Published in Business Management

Feb. 12, 2016 - Four of Alberta's crop commissions - Alberta Wheat Commission, Alberta Barley, Alberta Canola Producers Commission and Alberta Pulse Growers Commission - are fostering hands-on farm safety education opportunities by hosting a series of FarmSafe workshops throughout Alberta this March.

These free, one-day FarmSafe workshops will provide training and educational manuals to help farmers develop a complete health and safety management system tailored to their unique operations. FarmSafe workshops will take place on March 7 in Red Deer, March 9 in Grande Prairie and March 10 in Lethbridge.

"Our commissions are steadfast in our belief that education is more effective than legislation in preventing serious injuries and farm fatalities," said Jason Lenz, Alberta Barley vice-chairman. "These FarmSafe workshops are a proactive way to apply this approach, and ensure farmers have access to materials that guide safe and healthy farming operations."

The workshops allow participants to choose their focus within the elements of the FarmSafe plan that make most sense for their operation. They can also choose to complete the FarmSafe modules at their own pace, beyond the one-day workshop.

"The advantage of the FarmSafe course we are coordinating is that producers can design the experience that they want. A producer can show up to the workshop and decide they want to implement parts of the FarmSafe plan that apply to their operation, in whatever way is most appropriate," Lenz added.

Participation is free of charge and those attending the workshops will be given access to additional free online resources and advice beyond the workshop dates. Producers can find more information and register for the workshops by visiting any of the commissions' websites at,, and The FarmSafe plan was created by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association.


Published in Pulses

Dec. 7, 2015 - Amendments to the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, confirm the government's intent to exclude farm and ranch owners, and their families, from Occupational Health and Safety and mandatory Workers' Compensation Board coverage.

"Across Alberta, we have heard farming and ranching families' concerns. We know that farming in Alberta is more than a business, it is a way of life. It has always been our intention to preserve that way of life. The amendments explicitly exclude owners of farming or ranching operations, and their family members, from the mandatory application of WCB and OHS rules. We are also introducing amendments to assure Albertans that neighbours can still volunteer to help each other out, without being subject to the new rules."
- Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour

The provisions for family members and non-waged individuals in the amendments were to be set out in regulations. Public concerns about whether OHS rules and WCB coverage applied to family operations required that they be stated within the Act itself for greater clarity and certainty.

"Families will be able to teach their children the farming and ranching way of life, as they always have, and neighbours will be able to volunteer to help each other out in times of need, as they always have."
- Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry

At a glance

  • The amendments to the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act explicitly exclude the application of WCB and OHS to owners of a farm or ranch operation, family members of the owners, and friends and neighbours who volunteer their time on the farm or ranch.
  • Only where non-owner or non-family waged individuals are involved in a farm or ranch operation will WCB and OHS apply to the operation, and only to those non-owner and non-family waged individuals.
  • If waged individuals are owners or family members of owners, the application of WCB and OHS will be excluded as it pertains to those individuals.
  • In all cases, farm and ranch families may elect to choose WCB coverage for waged owners, waged family members and unwaged neighbours and friends.


Published in Corporate News

Nov. 17, 2015 - Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act, was introduced in the Alberta Legislature today.

According to Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, "everyone deserves a safe, fair and healthy workplace.

"With this bill, workplace legislation will now extend to farms and ranches. The rules we implement must respect the unique qualities of the farm and ranch industry, and I look forward to working with industry members to develop rules that make sense," says Sigurdson.

If approved, the law would ensure that 60,000 farm and ranch workers in Alberta will have the same basic protections that other workers in the province have received for decades.

The Workers' Compensation Act was introduced in 1918, nearly a century ago. The first comprehensive Labour Relations legislation was put in place in 1938, a year before the Second World War. Alberta's Occupational Safety and Health Act was implemented in 1976, nearly four decades ago.

Changes would include:

  • Ensuring farms and ranches are subject to Occupational Health and Safety legislation to prevent farm and ranch incidents that can result in injury or death.
  • Providing Workers' Compensation Board insurance coverage so that workers can continue to support their families if they are injured on the job, and protecting farm and ranch owners against the impact of workplace injuries and illness.
  • Including farm and ranches in Employment Standards and Labour Relations legislation.

Farm and ranch workers will be protected by the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations beginning January 1, 2016. Workers' Compensation Board coverage for farm and ranch workers will also be mandatory as of this date.

Changes to Alberta's Employment Standards and Labour Relations legislation will come into effect in the spring of 2016, following consultations with industry regarding exemptions that may be needed for unique circumstances such as seeding or harvesting.

Government will work with industry over the next year to develop detailed occupational health and safety technical rules for farms and ranches. The rules are expected to be in place in 2017.

Albertans wishing to provide input into the proposed changes or find out more information can attend town hall meetings to be held across the province this fall:

  • Grande Prairie area – November 26, 2015
  • Red Deer area – December 1, 2015
  • Calgary area (Okotoks) – December 2, 2015
  • Lethbridge area – December 3, 2015
  • Edmonton area (Leduc) – December 7, 2015

Albertans can also participate in an online survey, accessible on the Government of Alberta website. For more information on the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act and proposed changes and timelines, or to provide your input online, visit


Published in Corporate News

Oct. 27, 2015 – A new report from United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada and the Agriculture Workers Alliance reveals how many of Canada's more than 45,000 migrant and temporary agriculture workers regularly face workplace and human rights abuse. The Status of Migrant Farm Workers in Canada 2015, details how this mostly invisible workforce, hidden away in agriculture centres across Canada, is left vulnerable to exploitation because of legislative and regulatory discrimination that denies migrant agriculture workers basic workplace, labour, and health and safety rights that most other workers take for granted.

"While agriculture has evolved into a large scale, industrial enterprise, those who do the backbreaking work are essentially powerless in the face of a system that often treats agriculture workers more like disposable commodities than human beings," says Paul Meinema, the national president of UFCW Canada. For more than three decades, UFCW Canada has been the leading advocate for the labour and human rights of migrant and temporary agriculture workers in Canada. In association with the Agriculture Workers Alliance (AWA), UFCW Canada operates migrant agriculture worker support centres in agriculture centres across Canada. Over the past decade, the centres' staff have documented the concerns of thousands of migrant agriculture workers regarding unpaid work time, hazardous working and living conditions, and arbitrary repatriation.

"Migrant agriculture workers are more vulnerable than the general Canadian workforce and do some of the most dangerous work there is, yet their legal rights are almost non-existent," says the UFCW Canada leader. "Unless their workplace is unionized, migrant agriculture workers face the threat of arbitrary repatriation the moment they raise any concerns about working conditions, health and safety, or substandard housing."

Currently, in Ontario – the province with the largest agriculture workforce – workers in the sector are excluded from unionizing under the Ontario Labour Relations Act. In most jurisdictions across the country, migrant agriculture workers are also restricted from the fullest protection of provincial employment standards and health and safety regulations. As the new report details, the result is that Canada's migrant agriculture workers are faced with conditions where exploitation and abuse are all too common. Migrant and temporary agriculture worker programs in Canada are regulated by the federal government, and typically tie a worker to one employer with no option to seek another if there is a workplace problem.

"Canada can do better and that is certainly the case when it comes to fair treatment for the men and women who come to Canada to put food on our tables," says Meinema. "Migrant agriculture workers make a vital and tremendous contribution to our community, and deserve fairness, safety, and the same legal rights as other workers in Canada."

Providing transferable work permits is just one of the report's 19 recommended legal reforms to provide fair treatment of migrant agriculture workers. Some of the other recommendations include an impartial worker appeal process when faced with arbitrary repatriation, national standards to monitor and discipline offshore recruiters, mandatory dormitory health and safety inspections, as well as revising discriminatory legislation where it exists to provide agriculture workers the same rights as other workers to join a union and bargain collectively.


Published in Corporate News

July 28, 2015 - The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) is pleased to announce the formation of the Advisory Group for the Supporting the Advancement of Women in Agriculture project. This project will examine and address critical barriers to advancement facing women in the industry. Based on these results, there will be a strategic program developed and implemented to support improved access to leadership opportunities and strengthened business success for women working in agriculture.

As the project moves forward, the Advisory Group will provide feedback around key lines of enquiry to ensure meaningful outcomes for the agricultural community. This includes identifying subject matter experts to participate in the research, development and validation activities. Members will also assist in guiding the progress of the project for the next two years and as findings come in will provide feedback on proposed research instruments, tool drafts, report drafts, and other project elements.

The Advisory Group is comprised of professional and entrepreneurial women and men in the agriculture industry with an interest in advancing women in leadership roles. Members were drawn from senior management and executive positions in farm businesses, agricultural associations and agribusiness. They provide a balance of representation from across Canada as well as a cross-section of production areas, business focus and industry associations. The members include:

  • Heather Broughton, Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta, Agri-Food Management Excellence Inc.
  • Chantelle Donahue, Vice-President Corporate Affairs, Cargill Limited
  • Dr. Annemieke Farenhorst, NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Manitoba
  • Susan Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald & Co, Canadian AgriWomen Network
  • Rebecca Hannam, Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program, Rural Ontario Institute,
  • Dr. Laura Halfyard, Sunrise and Connaigre Mussel Farms, Canadian Aquaculture Industry Association
  • Brenda Lammens, Agri-Food Management Institute, Canadian AgriWomen Network
  • Geneviève Lemonde, AGRIcarrières
  • Iris Meck, Iris Meck Communications
  • Debra Pretty-Straathof, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, World Farmers Organization (WFO) Standing Committee on Women in Agriculture
  • Lis Robertson, Canadian Association of Farm Advisors
  • Kim Shukla, Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance

There will be ways for others to get involved in the project as well. In the near future CAHRC will be announcing sub-groups focused on specific areas. There will also be social media groups through Linked-In and Facebook formed to allow for greater connection and communication throughout the project.

For more information or to get involved with Supporting the Advancement of Women in Agriculture, please contact Jennifer Wright, HR Consultant at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or Debra Hauer, Project Manager at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit CAHRC at  This project is funded by Status of Women Canada.

Published in Business Management
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