“For me, finding people with the right skill sets is a challenge,” says David Mol, President, PEI Federation of Agriculture. “It’s harder to attract people to agriculture as a career.”
David, who has been farming for 48 years, owns Meadowbrook Farms in Winsloe, where he focuses on seed grain production.
“Because farming has become more mechanized and labour is harder to attract, my staff numbers have changed over the years,” says David. “When growing cauliflower and broccoli, we needed 15 to 20 seasonal workers. When I changed to cereal and seed production, I used to have a staff of four people. Currently, I have one full-time staff member besides myself.
“The agriculture industry has become more sophisticated, with computers and GPS on tractors, and the level of training and expertise needed has gone up as well. We are competing in a job market that has higher salary expectations than what farming has traditionally been used to.
“In western Canada, the agriculture industry faces competition with salaries paid in the oil patch, and farmers there have to match those salaries.
“I know a farmer out west who is paying his employee more than he makes, and I am also paying my employee more than I make. If you need a high level of expertise, you have to compete or get out of the business.
“A number of PEI farmers are hiring off-shore employees, and they are proving to be excellent workers. I have had first-hand experience with some of them.
“Being part of a roguing crew is a great entry-level way to learn more about working in agriculture. This job involves walking through fields identifying and removing undesirable plant species. Roguing is a job that cannot be done by machine. This year, I hired one 65 year old, and also four young brothers ages 11 to 17.”
“Only eight or nine PEI students graduate from the Dalhousie agricultural program in Truro every year. It used to be many more.
“I think the education system should strengthen the agricultural course content at high school level. They need to paint a positive picture that there is more to farming than any misconceptions they may have.”
To explore the many PEI job options in Agriculture on PEI visit PEI Agriculture Sector Council at www.peiagsc.ca.