Ontario farmers see more help from the government

With one season down and lessons learned, Mitch Deschatelets says he feels more prepared now following a year of uncertainty due to the pandemic. April 9/21 (Alana Pickrell/CTV News Northern Ontario)

It’s good news for farmers as they prepared for a second COVID-19 growing season with the Ontario Government announcing $10M for pandemic related expenses.

"I believe it’s very important," said Mitch Deschatelets from Leisure Farms in Sturgeon Falls.

"More than ever actually like during a pandemic like regardless of what happens throughout the world we’re always going to be needing to eat, and if we want to secure our country, than we better make sure we’re able to provide the food and not rely on other countries to bring in food."

The money is expected to be used for various expenses to make farm operations safer places during the pandemic. This includes personal protector equipment, cleaning and disinfection supplies, and redesigning workstations to better protest workers.

It’s something that officials say is needed province wide.

"OFA did a survey not that long ago and had about 498 participants about 16% of them are concerned that they won’t be able to really do their operations properly, get the planting done, et cetera, if they don’t have the PPE’s and the ability to make the modifications necessary," explained Ontario Federation of Agriculture President Peggy Brekveld.

New funding recently announced by the provincial government is expected to help farmers with various expenses to make farm operations safer places during the pandemic. April 9/21 (Alana Pickrell/CTV News Northern Ontario)

Deschatelets says he plans to apply and is hoping it helps overcome some obstacles he faced last year during the pandemic.

"Some of the changes for us was the part with the quarantine," he said.

"On top of utilizing all the local help we also utilize the foreign worker program and it was a lot more complicated with the COVID in place. Having to isolate between different groups. So different arrivals. Then the planes a lot were mixed up last spring. Some did not arrive on time for the season and instead of having into groups coming in, only a few individuals would come in."

Between the foreign worker program and local help, Leisure Farms has about 43 employees every season.

However, with one season down and lessons learned, Deschatelets says he feels more prepared this year.

"Last year we weren’t ready and people had to walk out to the fields. This year were with the separations on the wagon, those who can not make the walk will be able to hop on a wagon. So it’s a better deal for everybody."

Applications for this new round of funding open April 22 and will be accepted until Nov. 30 or until the funding runs out. Farm businesses can apply for a maximum of $15K and it is also retro-active to march.

"Any help, any funding is always appreciated," said Deschatelets.