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Program matches refugees with Nfld. farmers

Program matches refugees with Nfld. farmers

The province needs workers to increase food production, the ag federation president says

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

An organization in Newfoundland and Labrador is working with the ag industry to ensure provincial food production remains strong.

The Association for New Canadians, which helps immigrants settle into new communities, is working on a program called Bridging the Gap. The initiative looks to match refugees with local farms.

The program launched its first phase in January and has identified about 30 newcomers who want to work on farms and have some basic skills that enable them to do so.

“Coming from more rural parts of the world, a lot of them have experience already in farming. And it turns out to be exactly what Newfoundland and Labrador needs,” Justin Campbell, the diversity outreach coordinator with the association, told CBC yesterday.

The organization hopes to place 10 refugees on farms by spring 2019 on a four-month placement. They will receive English training and an education about cold weather crops before working on a farm.

Producers recognize the need for more people in Newfoundland and Labrador’s ag industry.

The province lost 20 per cent of its farms from 2011 to 2016, Statistics Canada says.

Attracting new people to the industry is crucial for the future of the province’s food system, said Merv Wiseman, a program advisor and president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture.

“I’ve been advocating for a long time that we need the right immigration programs to help get more people into farming,” Wiseman told Farms.com. “We are trying to double the amount of food we produce in the province, and we’re going to need people to help us do that.

“Innovation in the industry keeps progressing, and we’re going to need farmers who can make use of the new products that come out. If we don’t have new farmers coming into the industry, we can’t meet our production goals.”

Merv Wiseman photo

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