Will Quebecers be handy at harvesting? Real farmers aren't sure

While the government is confident that students and other Quebecers will take to the land, farmers aren't as sure.

In April, the provincial government rolled out a plan to get thousands of Quebecers back to work, asking them to come forward and help harvest crops. The government said they anticipated a shortage of temporary foreign workers, thousands of whom come mostly from South America to work on the province's farms.

Farmer Phil Quinn said he's not sure how well the program will work out.

“It will be a few hours here and there, every other day,” he said. “They're really, really eager to help out but we're used to managing six guys who work here six days a week, working 12 to 15 hours a day.”

Quinn said the learning curve for farm work can be steep and he can't imagine training dozens of people who are just looking for a summer job to get through the COVID-19 crisis.

“Don't get me wrong, lots and lots of good, qualified Quebecers are out there with good work ethics but they're few and far between and not as fired up as I used to be when I was a kid,” said Quinn.

Some farmers are using the crisis to rethink how and what they grow, especially as Canadians begin thinking about how to be less dependant on food grown outside the country. A movement is already underway to diversify the fruits and produce grown in Canada.

“Right now, it has a lot to do with staple crops: cabbages, carrots, onions, there's been a return to the awareness of the essentials in a time of pandemic,” said SeedChange spokesperson Jane Rabinowicz.  

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