Joanna P. Hamon
A Hidden Gem – the Unlikely BC Farm Worker
Updated: Mar 25, 2022
Coming to Canada
For many foreign workers, BC farm work was not their plan, or in their skillset.
Take Charles, a BC Dairy Farm Worker, now working for his dream employer, in Abbotsford, BC.
Just 2 years ago, Charles’ reality looked very different. Back then, he was working as office staff at a university in the Philippines, when he got an opportunity to go work in Japan. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a scam, so Charles turned to two other countries: Korea and Canada, looking for opportunities.
When his friend from Vancouver called him, Charles said, “Of course I want to go to Canada! Who doesn’t want to go to Canada?”. Foreign workers know Canada is a good place live, particularly, ‘Beautiful BC’ landscapes and temperate weather.
With the support of his friend and uncle in Canada, Charles decided to apply to study in Canada.
The Adjustment Period
In October 2019, Charles entered Canada to study at BCIT. Charles stresses how important it was, to have the in-Canada support on the ground already – whether friends, family or future employer. Having support in Canada gave him peace of mind and confidence in taking that leap, and in making decisions throughout the process – especially given his previous scam experience.
Charles’ uncle knew a local farm worker and let him know that his nephew was looking for a job. Without any dairy experience on his résumé, Charles wasn’t the typical first choice for most farms, but he was already here, available and willing to learn!
Within a week, two farms expressed interest in interviewing Charles. The first employer wasted no time and, within 24 hours, had an interview scheduled with Charles. Without a car, Charles got up at 4am, to catch a ride to the farm for his interview, while his friend went fishing. “I had mixed feelings,” says Charles, “a bit nervous, but excited.”
There was instantly a connection between the owner and worker; Charles says he was committed to the farm immediately. “I knew I am home, I am good here,” says Charles.
When hiring a foreign worker, it’s vital to remember that they are often applying to and/or being interviewed by multiple employers, thus it’s important to act without delay when you are interested in a worker.
Once hired, training began. Charles says, “my employer guided me so well – step by step – all the time, teaching me.” He told me to take it slowly; don’t rush anything.” Within two weeks, Charles says he already had the hang of it. Charles’ main duties are feeding the cows and calves and doing weekend milking. He says he would like to learn more about the milking side, and everything that goes into ensuring high quality milk is produced.
“Here in the barn, every season is a learning experience,” says Charles.
He continues, “any employer hiring a foreign worker, the worker needs to be happy – be satisfied; everything else will follow.” As a highly committed employee, he feels strongly that other workers are looking for their Canadian “home” with good employers, where they can ideally put down long term roots.
The Long-term picture
When Charles initially came to Canada, his family struggled to find the funds to support his studies in Canada, even selling their only vehicle. Thanks to his job in Canada, Charles has been able to repay his family for all his tuition costs and has bought his parents a new car.
“We are all really happy,” says Charles, “It was a whole community effort, pushing forward day by day. This is a blessing not for me but for us – for my entire family.”
Charles and Joe have a great working relationship. As Joe Jacobs says, “Charles has a great attitude, and is willing to learn and do anything on the farm. Sometimes no experience is better, even when hiring a Canadian. It allows us to train how we operate.”
Charles’ story serves to demonstrate that sometimes the best workers are first overlooked, due to lack of experience. Sometimes the loyal worker who is eager to learn, is the most hidden gem for employers in Canada.