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Pilot program helps recruit, retain seasonal domestic agriculture workers

CANADA, August 9 - A pilot program this summer is connecting B.C. employers with seasonal domestic workers looking for employment in Okanagan orchards and vineyards.

BC Fruit Works is a collaboration between the BC Grape Growers’ Association, BC Cherry Association, BC Fruit Growers’ Association and the BC Tree Fruit Cooperative, with support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

“BC Fruit Works is part of our government’s Tree Fruit Industry Stabilization initiative as we look at ways to co-ordinate various agencies through an industry labour strategy,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “This collaborative approach is strengthening the B.C. tree-fruit and wine sector, and ensuring their delicious and high-quality products will continue to get into the hands of consumers this summer and in the future.”

In June, BC Fruit Works began a trial launch with several goals, including:

  • engaging domestic workers to work as branch hands in Okanagan orchards and vineyards;
  • leveraging technology, including web forms, social media, text messaging, QR codes, scheduling automation and digital marketing, to build a marketplace that connects workers with producers efficiently and in real time; and
  • creating ongoing job opportunities in Okanagan orchards and vineyards, building support for local growers, and protecting and sustaining B.C.’s food supply for years to come.

BC Fruit Works is seeing early success, securing 90 branch hands for fruit-harvest jobs and 60 farmers interested in training and adopting technology to maximize profit and minimize food waste.

Quotes:

John Bayley, president, BC Grape Growers’ Association –

“The BC Fruit Works program has the potential to shift our fruit industries into a more organized, collaborative unit, ensuring more efficient communication and feedback on the casual workforce that we require to operate as a successful industry. It’s a much-needed step toward stabilizing our labour issues throughout all fruit sectors.”

Sukhpaul Bal, president, BC Cherry Association –

“The new BC Fruit Works program represents the future for hiring Canadians to work in B.C. orchards. It includes an app that is elegant and simple to use for both growers and people looking for summer work picking fruit in the Okanagan sunshine.”

Annelise Simonsen, director, BC Fruit Growers' Association (BCFGA) –

“The BCFGA is happy to be included in the creation and implementation of this project as the representatives of fruit growers across the province. BC Fruit Works had a dedicated team of creative and energetic people working on this project, and I am looking forward to seeing how it builds and grows now that it is being used within the industry.”

Warren Sarafinchan, CEO, BC Tree Fruits Cooperative –

“BC Fruit Works is one of many examples where the Ministry of Agriculture and Food has been strongly supporting the tree-fruit industry in B.C. Access to labour to grow the highest quality fruit possible is critical for growers, and, based on early indicators, BC Fruit Works is enabling both growers and branch hands to easily and efficiently connect. We strongly encourage growers and potential branch hands to try this tool as it will make a meaningful difference for all industry stakeholders.”

Quick Facts:

  • The B.C. government is providing as much as $90,000 to BC Fruit Works.
  • Developing a comprehensive agriculture-centric labour strategy and supporting the industry’s efforts to access labour pools was one of the recommendations in the 2021 Path Forward: A Blueprint for B.C.’s Tree Fruit Industry (Tree Fruit Industry Stabilization Plan).
  • The province’s high-value and high-quality fruit, including honeycrisp, ambrosia and pink lady apples as well as late-season cherries, are in high demand locally and around the world.
  • More than 60 different grape varieties are produced in B.C., including merlot, pinot gris, pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, gewurztraminer, cabernet franc, syrah, riesling and sauvignon blanc.

Learn More:

BC Fruit Works: https://bcfruitworks.com/

BC Grape Growers’ Association: https://www.grapegrowers.bc.ca/

BC Cherry Association: https://www.bccherry.com/

BC Fruit Growers’ Association: https://www.bcfga.com/

BC Tree Fruit Cooperative: http://www.bctreefruits.com/

The Path Forward: A Blueprint for B.C.’s Tree Fruit Industry (Tree Fruit Industry Stabilization Plan):
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/agriculture-and-seafood/animal-and-crops/crop-production/tree-fruit-stabilization-plan/the_path_forward_-_a_blueprint_for_bcs_tree_fruit_industry.pdf