Farm Workers and COVID-19

June 19, 2020 | Clarence Nywening

Farm Workers and COVID-19

The current pandemic continues to take an appalling toll in our country and in our industry. The recent news of two young farm workers who succumbed to COVID-19 was tragic, and we extend our deepest condolences to their families.

There are many more who have tested positive, and some who are still in hospital. We pray for their speedy recovery.

We, as Christian farmers, take very seriously the health and safety of workers – whether they are family, neighbours or seasonal workers.

Despite measures like quarantine for workers arriving from other countries, exposure through local community contact is still a risk. This is a tough situation for everybody. 

Farmers have been consulting with their local public health agencies to make sure they have all the necessary protective equipment, sanitizers and physical distancing procedures in place.

We’re also seeing some talented inventors emerging from this disruption, including Bradley Van Luyk of the Holland Marsh. He came up with the idea for plexiglass dividers to keep workers safe while they’re transplanting onions. His family helped him design and install them.

Efforts to promote safety are going on at the farm organization level, too. For example, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers, the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers and others are supporting more access to testing for all workers. But it has to be voluntary, strategic and culturally sensitive. It’s an important piece of the disease prevention puzzle, along with other precautions.

Industry and government are pulling together to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most recently, the Ontario government committed $15 million toward helping farmers buy personal protective equipment and make necessary changes to keep workers safe.

We’re here to help, too. The Christian Farmers website has many links to resources – the latest news, mental health supports, financial assistance, and lots of information and checklists around how to maintain workplace health and safety. There’s much more, and I encourage you to visit our special COVID-19 information page.

As farmers, we’ve always risen to the challenges we face. We’re uniquely equipped to be creative in overcoming obstacles that get in the way of producing food.

The most important thing we can do right now is protect our people so that we can continue to provide the healthy, high-quality food that stocks our shelves and nourishes the nation.

God bless and stay safe everyone.

Clarence Nywening is Interim General Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.