Unfair Criticism Levelled at Leamington and Kingsville Farms: Leamington Biz Owner

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ESSEX COUNTY — The managing partner of a Leamington accounting firm is coming to the defence of area farmers in the municipality for remaining in Stage 1 of the Economic Recovery Plan.

The province announced on Wednesday that Windsor and five Essex County municipalities could re-open more businesses, but not Leamington and Kingsville due to the high rate of infections in the agri-food sector.

Jason Melo is the managing partner with Baker Tilly Trillum, an accounting firm, and part of the ownership group of the Leamington Flyers hockey club.

He says he's in touch daily with farm owners and believes they are being unfairly criticized.

He says some farm owners are doing everything they can to prevent  the spread, but unfortunately the sector lends itself to a high rate of infection.

Melo says farm owners have sought help to protect their workers.

"You have businesses that are bringing in doctors as consultants and doing assessments on what they should and shouldn't do, what they are doing well, what they can improve on and hiring full-time nurses," says Melo.

"They are doing a lot of good things, infrared sensor temperature checks, they are doing what they can, but it's not fair the heat they are taking because I don't think it is all true."

Melo adds he talks to the larger farm operations and they are stressed by the situation.

"Being someone who is in the community who is in touch daily with a lot of these farmers, I didn't think it was equitable to be painted in that light because they live in the community just like I do, they have done a lot of great things in the community and they do care."

As of Wednesday, 475 agri-food workers had tested positive for COVID-19 at 27 farms.

Some farms are having the workers tested on-site as part of a pilot project to identify which workers are positive and negative, to prevent further infections.

--With files from AM800's Rob Hindi