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  • Norfolk Farms

Trinidad Woman Now Calls Schuyler Farms Home

Norfolk County has long been known for its large, diverse agriculture industry, offering a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for both local use and export. The thousands of acres of produce that are harvested locally each year require countless hours of work and a skilled and reliable work force to ensure that these crops are harvested and delivered.

While the number of local workers could not keep up with the ever-increasing demand, farmers found it necessary to bring in ‘offshore’ workers to fulfill the need. For many years now we have seen more and more of these workers arriving pre-planting season and remaining here until after harvests are complete. In some cases, and on some farms, there are workers who now make Norfolk County their new home.

One local operation that I recently visited, Schuyler Farms, is proud and pleased with the work force that they have “We have about 110 men working for us and 32 women with numbers increasing to about 400 when harvest is in full swing” adds CEO Brett Schuyler. I was able to sit down recently with one of those women and I was quite impressed with her story.

In 2013 Felena Pereira left her home and family in the small rural village of Tabaquite, Trinidad and started work at Schuyler Farms - for 2 to 3 months each year - as a seasonal worker. This meant leaving her 2 children, a daughter now 18 and her son now 14, with her Mom. “It was a big sacrifice but I have a large extended family and they help my Mom out. We’re a close knit family of 11 children and every other weekend we would have everybody home, including extended family, to relax and enjoy good times.”

While Pereira misses her Trinidad family, she has become an important and integral part of her ‘farm’ family and was offered a full-time year-round position. Schuyler was impressed with her work as a farm labourer and in Dec. of 2020 she was nominated as a Provincial Nominee for the OIN Program – Ontario Immigrant Nomination process. Almost two years later, in April. of 2022, she was granted her Permanent Residency and plans to apply for her Canadian Citizenship when she is eligible.

Pereira earned her Ontario Equipment License for her job at Schuyler’s. “My job title is Equipment Operator and I have experience on several pieces of equipment and I operate different machines and equipment for them. They grow apples, cherries, corn and soybeans and they also raise geese and sheep. We’re surrounded by farms and I have helped out at Cleaver Orchards planting trees and at Townsend Fruit Growers. I go wherever the equipment is needed. I’m kind of a jack-of-all-trades…I do all the jobs I’m asked to do” adds Pereira.

During harvest her work day is 10 to 12 hours long, seven days a week. Post-harvest things slow down and they work 8 hours a day, Monday to Friday. “My employer is number 1 and the accommodations are great. In 2019 my family came to Canada for a two week vacation and Brett took them on some tours to visit the sheep, African Lion Safari and Canada’s Wonderland as well.”

During the first wave of Covid things were a little tougher for Pereira when Trinidad closed its borders and she was unable to go back home for a visit. While she knew her children were in good hands, she missed seeing them so she was so happy when things changed in 2021, Trinidad borders opened up and things went back to being a little more ‘normal’.

Pereira speaks highly of Schuyler Farms CEO Brett Schuyler and Chief of Operations Dave Petheram. “It’s been a good experience working here. I can’t say I have any regrets…I have accomplished so much since coming here. I am working to be able to bring my children here to live and hopefully, in time, they will get their Canadian Citizenship” adds Pereira. In Sept. of 2021 Pereira was featured in a Chatelaine magazine article. “I was lucky to be asked to be in the magazine”. Her work ethic and commitment to Schuyler Farms was, no doubt, a factor in that.

Visiting Pereira at the farm was like old home week for me, having grown up just down the road and attending school with the ‘senior’ Schuyler kids. I have some good memories of picking strawberries with my Mom, often eating more than we picked. It is great to see that the family farm operation continues and that Schuyler continues to foster that ‘family’ feeling with their workers. A sign posted on their office wall sums it all up.

Humble – Team players who are respectful of others and the job at hand

Driven – Motivated and focused on self-improvement

Solutions Oriented – Focused on anticipating and solving solutions.

Pereira is a prime example of all that Schuyler Farms embodies and expects of their ‘family’ of workers. Congratulations Felena on your Permanent Residence status! 

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