Wagonload Tomatoes

My partner and I have been operating an organic vegetable farm in Western Quebec for almost 25 years. During all these years, the most persistent problems are weeds and staffing!

We started farming with just the two of us, but as our acreage increased, we needed to hire help. Our first employee was both a training ground and a series of landmines as we learned to cope with holiday and vacation time, payroll, days off, mistakes, no-shows, training, and a barrage of other staffing and personal issues which had nothing to do with farming!

As we expanded our acreage further, we needed even more help. In those days we relied on local summer students which often became more like a gigantic “Summer Camp.” We often share one incident where, on a hot summer day, we discovered unsupervised young lads and girls playing “topless” in the sprinklers in the field! Thereafter, supervision became the rule of the day! But this comes with the exhausting task and responsibility of endlessly overseeing staff.

In 2009, with our acreage continuing to increase, we decided to start bringing in Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW). In those days, applications had to be filed 9 months before arrival, so it took a lot of advance planning to get the process rolling. Our provincial farmers’ union helped us manage the endless paperwork and get the applications properly filed.

As suitable housing for TFWs is mandatory, we rented a house nearby to initially accommodate our 4 Mexican workers before our permanent housing was completed. In the early Spring of that year, we purchased a used mobile home, moved it to the farm, and installed septic, water, and hydro and made many improvements and updates to the home itself. We wanted our seasonal workers to each have their own bedroom, which is a policy we continue to this day. We now have three mobile homes on the farm with a total of 11 bedrooms, 4 kitchens, 4 washrooms, and we provide our staff with free satellite TV and Wi-Fi. The investment needed to build these homes was well worth the dollars spent.

Our first Mexican workers were amazing to have on the farm – with language being the only real challenge. They were skilled, knowledgeable, polite, and hard-working. Eventually we would train them to operate our tractors and other essential farm equipment. All had previously worked on vegetable farms and had valuable experience to share.

And yes, there are added costs associated with filing the applications, travel costs, and extra paperwork – but these costs were always covered from increased crop yields on our farm.

We later hired only Jamaicans due to their ability to speak English. Several of these men have returned to our farm for many years and know our farming operation very well. Since our operation is year-round, we now hire several men on 24-month Work Permits which means they do not have to go through the annual application process and have multiple-entry visas which means they go home to Jamaica when needed and return to Canada without any additional paperwork.

All of our TFWs now also have International Drivers’ Licenses which is a huge benefit for us and for them. They can drive themselves to shop for supplies and to explore the community. It gives them more independence and frees us from having to drive them around for necessities.

Due to worker shortages in Canada, the processing time of TFW approvals was relaxed by government through early Summer 2022, enabling TFW applications to be processed within 60 days!

Kneroy at market 2022

In these times, when few Canadians want to farm – or even work on farm – the ability to hire seasonal workers has been invaluable to our farm’s growth and success. Now if we can just control the weeds!

Stuart Collins

Bryson Farms





Information on Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program can be found at:

Temporary Foreign Worker – Canada.ca

One Organic Farm Approach to Solving the Farm Labour Problem