Arguments over whether international workers or homegrown Canadians should provide the labour to grow our crops and raise our livestock fizzle when the rubber hits the road.
Many international workers dedicate the entire growing season to coming to Canada, leaving their families behind to work on farms here.
In contrast, Canadians don’t want these jobs, even during times of high unemployment like we’re in now.
The jobs require some skill development and can be extremely rewarding.
But they can also be really hard – similar to tree planting.
Tree planting is a Canadian rite of passage for students. On the down side, they tell tales of endless bugs, soaking rain and exhaustion.
But still they flock to it, ready to accept the bad with the good … making decent money, hanging out with other young people, away from home, among nature.
Now, a group called Forests Recovery Canada, which calls itself the only non-profit organization in Canada that oversees all aspects of forest restoration, thinks people whose jobs have been lost as a result of the pandemic should consider giving tree planting a shot.
The group is trying to remind us that while we’re busy focussing on the matter at hand, like social distancing and wondering how we’ll get our hands on a COVID-19 vaccine, nature marches on.
Its appeal is based on helping the environment, giving back to trees because their blossoms feed bees that pollinate farm crops, and their leaves shade our homes, lower heating bills and increase property values.
Forests also soak up excess water, mitigate flooding, reduce soil erosion, and provide homes for wildlife, says the group.
And some trees will become paper (including toilet paper), furniture, art, musical instruments and building material for homes and office buildings – “all products that we need for our standard of living and daily wellbeing.”
The group says that during the 2020 federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to having Canada plant two billion trees over the next decade.
Trudeau, it says, described how trees sequester carbon and cool the planet.
So why not do something to improve the Earth and help revive the economy?
“Millions of Canadians are out of work, and meanwhile, tree nurseries across Canada are growing millions of seedlings,” says registered professional forester Rob Keen, CEO of Forest Recovery Canada. “Jobseekers can be trained to plant these seedlings. This is an opportune time to mobilize the labour force, including our youth, with a national tree-planting strategy.”
He also claims tree planters can keep their distance if they so choose. They typically work apart, a minimum distance of two metres between each other.
And finally, he adds that planting organizations across Canada prepared procedures identifying sanitation rules and protocols for planting crews to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Good stuff.
Forests Ontario, which is affiliated with Forest Recovery Canada, says the 2.5-ish million trees it plants annually creates about 300 seasonal rural jobs.
That’s significant. On Tuesday, the Rural Ontario Institute issued a fact sheet on the rural employment impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting how rural women are experiencing the brunt of the job loss.
The good news? Either gender can plant trees.
Admittedly, this is seasonal work. And it’s a lot harder than doing nothing. But it has an allure for those who can handle it.
So does farm work. And now’s the time for the sector to make it seem alluring too – which it is. Seeing the fruits of your labour is gratifying. And the jobs are right around the corner.