Red Soil Organics in Brookfield is among Atlantic Canada’s largest organic vegetable farm. It grows over 50 acres of vegetables, including carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and rutabaga.
For over three decades, the Dykerman family has grown and processed conventional vegetables at Brookfield Gardens. As wholesalers requested more organic produce, Matthew Dykerman started Red Soil Organics in 2009.
“I give credit to my father Eddy and uncle Gerald for supporting the expansion to organic farming,” says Matthew.
About the staff
“In the peak season, June to November, 30 to 35 employees work at both companies,” says Matthew. “We begin hiring for the season in April. We have 15 to 20 year-round employees, including two managers, five to eight tractor drivers and equipment operators and 10 to 20 general labourers. Three or four employees have been here about 20 years.”
Staff work Monday through Thursday, 7 am to 4:30 pm or Monday to Friday, 7 am to 3:30 pm. During harvest time, they have the option to work overtime on evenings and Saturdays.
“Organic farming is a little more labour intensive than conventional farming. We do a lot more weeding in organic farming, so we hire a few extra hands for that. They harvest the vegetables by hand and grade, sort, and package product for market.
“Heavy lifting is part of the job; we ask employees if they are comfortable lifting 50 pounds. We make sure employees have different tasks during the day so they aren’t doing the same thing all day.”
Skilled heavy equipment operators in demand
“Good tractor operators seem to be in short supply. We look for people who are comfortable with a wide range of equipment, from forklifts to tractors, and have their Class 3 license. It’s an asset if they can do basic equipment maintenance as well.
“The cultivation equipment that runs behind the tractor is specific to our organic operation, and really talented operators are required because it is very precise work. They don’t want to take out the crop while they are weeding.”
“We have some unique equipment which is different from a potato or dairy farm. We make sure staff are well trained on equipment before they use it on the job.”
“We advertise open positions through kijiji, the PEI Agriculture Sector Council, the Job Bank, and facebook. We also find employees by word of mouth and referrals from our staff.
“We ask applicants about their work experience and what it is about farming that interests them. We want to see that they take pride in farming.”
Wages start at $11/hour and up, depending on skill level and work experience.
Chance for advancement
“We take a lot of pride in retaining our employees. We offer them the chance to learn new skills. If general labourers show interest in running any of the equipment, we’ll train them.”