The Similkameen Farm Workers Campground Society has officially changed its name to The Similkameen Farm Workers Advocacy Society as of the spring of 2012.
Having looked at what we had accomplished in the past three years our group was convinced that after two years of implementing the campground just outside of Keremeos, it was intended but did not provide the farm worker with a safe or hygienic site, nor did it resolve the issue for accommodating proper housing the farm workers in the area.
We also found that having created a campsite for the workers unfortunately drew other questionable characters into the area, thus confusing and creating more problems for the honest farm workers themselves and difficulty for the community in deciphering between the two groups.
The campground was intended to give some relief to the escalating situation at Pine Park in Keremeos – which it did, however the lack of adequate funding and the location being too close to Keremeos made it tough to create the best case scenario.
Regardless, the temporary campground taught us a great deal. It brought into focus the need for more facilities within the farming community including amenities in the town core. The campground was intended to fill in the gap between jobs and but instead recreated a hangout for those unemployed.
Having looked at all the possibilities the society has decided to move into a different direction which would better serve the farmer, farm worker, agricultural industry and the community as well.
Now that this season has come and gone without the farm workers campground or the Work Zone, we can see that some farmers are still in need of access to a labour force, and farm workers still need to locate farms to work on. To this end, I propose a possible solution that emphasizes the need to connect these two groups. This idea would lessen the need for an employment office and a central campground.
A website developed as a matching service for farmers and farm workers could be the ticket; it would allow each group to register online, answering key questions.
A farmer who wants to employ people would also answer questions pertaining to their needs. It would provide contact information to each other and when the position is filled the farmer could then withdraw their request for that position. This information would be updated regularly.
This method improves the chances of finding work and the farmer finding workers which is a win/win situation for all. The worker could login at any time of day or night and any place then at their convenience they could write or phone up or e-mail to negotiate a position for work. If a farmer is lacking facilities to accommodate the worker then he would need to rely on local workers who already have a place to live or negotiate a suitable arrangement with the transient worker.
With this method, the many needed transient workers can come to the valley knowing what is available or not and make their decision before they even arrive, eliminating the need for a campground, as they could go straight to the farm.
Most workers these days have access to the internet, either through their cell phones or through an internet café or library from anywhere.
Workers could be in the Lower Mainland, Ontario or Quebec, or traveling in other countries and use this service before they even get to their destination.
It takes most of the guess work out of the equation and allows the recipients to check around for suitable farms to work on. A minimal fee from the farmer and the farm worker would be required to maintain the site.
This concept would necessitate an initial start up cost, however, if you compare the costs to opening an employment office with staff the website would be more cost effective. Having a data based service, I believe, would be part of the solution for bringing the two groups together. Instead of money spent on an administrative center the money could be invested into developing and maintaining the Agricultural Farm/Farmworkers Data Service (not sure what the title would be at this time).
If someone wanted to find the site they would Google agricultural, it would come up. They could then click on to the site and a page explaining the service would appear, following a page to register – and the rest is easy enough to access in the future by logging in then giving their password that which was created when registering.
Through this system you could obtain statistics from any field which in the past has been difficult to attain. We have always been asked how many workers come through to work here, what type of amenities the farmer has etc. These fields and more could be gathered to help improve services in the area and to streamline the whole process altogether.
I would look for funding for this project through the agricultural community such as the Cherry Growers Assoc., BCFGA, etc and provincial and federal sectors of governments.
Other topics in the future for the Similkameen Farm Workers Advocacy Society will include looking at the different contracts between farmers and farm workers from outside of Canada.