On Wednesday night, the Canadian Horticultural Council showcased a new documentary to honour international farm workers at a premier held in Ottawa. The screening of ‘Heartbeat – A Celebration of International Farm Workers’, was attended by foreign dignitaries, government officials and leaders, farmers and workers in Canada’s agriculture industry.
The documentary features interviews with workers and farm owners from British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. In it, they tell their own stories of life on the farm.
Documentary Producer Michael Hicks (Right) and Farmer Murray Porteous of Lingwood Farms (second from left) along with farm workers from Suntech Greenhouses Pascual Valadez, Bernabe Roman and Fidel Perez.
TapRoot Farms in Port Williams, Nova Scotia is just one of several farms featured. Farmer Josh Oulton and Worker Chris Anthony Ellis from Jamaica talk about their 14-year working relationship and how it has developed into a lasting friendship. Oulton has visited Ellis and his family five times in Jamaica staying with the family in their home.
Women workers from Trinidad and Tobago are also featured. In interviews they describe how working in Canada provides them an opportunity to learn new skills while earning money to help support their families back home.
Short interview video vignettes shared online in advance of the film premiere have gone viral reaching more than 1.5 million people via social media. They have been viewed almost 800,000 times online.
Beth Connery, Canadian Horticultural Council Board of Directors, and Labour Chair said, “We commissioned this film to showcase the important and valued international workers and their integral role in our nation’s food supply. Unfortunately, the critical and chronic labour shortage on Canadian farms and the mutually beneficial relationship between temporary farm workers and Canadian producers is poorly understood by most Canadians. With this documentary, we aim to redress this fact.”
“For more than 50 years Canada and Jamaica have been good friends who are supportive of one another,” said Janice Miller, Jamaican High Commissioner to Canada, at the documentary’s premiere. “Our international farm workers have the farming skills, knowledge and a willingness to work. With the money they earn in Canada, not only do they provide a better life for their own families, they make a positive contribution to Jamaica’s economy too.”
The film has been in production for over two years and was produced and directed by Ottawa-native Michael Hicks of Hyperactive Productions. The screening took place in the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum’s Learning Centre.