It feels like we are finally getting something done on the farm with five of our foreign professionals now working 50-60 hours a week (and if they get any less hours they aren’t happy). Yet we are now behind on the season. If you have read any of my previous blogs I think the concept that it is impossible to run a farm on Canadian help has been well established so I won’t go into that again. I would, however, like to point out that it certainly isn’t just agriculture that is suffering from a painfully obvious lack of work ethic in Canada. A friend manages an auto supply store. The work pace is high (much like a really busy farmers market of days gone by). Of a daily crew of less than ten there is almost always 1-3, and sometimes more, of the crew missing for one reason or another (and many of the “reasons” are pretty pathetic). It wreaks havoc on the service the store is able to provide. Phones go unanswered, schedules at garages and repair shops fall behind, customers lives are then held up resulting in more loss of work time, etc., etc. and it seems that every service industry is suffering the same way. There is a very real loss to our economy that those of us who work hard have to compensate for. Money and the economy is certainly not the most important thing in life but the extra toil this imposes on those of us who end up pulling the weight takes a very real toll on our quality of life
After pondering for many years on what makes our Jamaican and Mexican employees more dedicated and appreciative of their employment there is only one thing I can put my finger on that would make that kind of difference in work ethic; our social “safety net”. I am not going to argue for a minute that it’s not a good thing. It’s an awesome thing. For the most part Canadian citizens do not starve or suffer in the way people do in many other countries do. Who can argue with that? But the problem is that generations of living with the knowledge that 'if I don’t pull my weight in society I will be provided for’ has resulted in a widespread disregard of the importance of working hard to stay ahead of almost certain suffering, starvation and death. If you think I am exaggerating then you are just too complacent about what is required to ensure our well being and existence on this planet. Certainly, the way things are now in Canada, if we find ourselves down on our luck, make a series of poor decisions, or decide not to pull our weight (and there seems to be an ever growing segment of society that live this way; I have seen it first hand) we will not starve. But that is only the case because others are working hard to pull that weight for us. If we all decide not to pull our weight then we certainly will starve. That is no exaggeration. If we, collectively, stop working we all starve. The difference between us and our Jamaican and Mexican employees is that they have grown up in a society where things can get very, very bad and they have all seen those who have been left behind and have suffered terribly. They understand that life is not easy and that only diligence will give them a fair chance of beating the odds and living a good life.
The way our social safety net has evolved over the years is the primary reason we now have to bring employees from other parts of the world to help feeds us. It seems to have become socially unacceptable to hold anyone accountable for their own state of existence….especially on the job (any business owner can tell you about the continual shift of all responsibility from the employee to the employer; we are now even held responsible for their overall wellbeing). I disagree with that mentality, it’s a mistake….and I am sure some of you think I am horrible for saying that is a mistake…..but if you are honest with yourself you know it is a fact. The only way to be truly happy and fulfilled in this life is to take responsibility for our own existence to the degree that we each can. A huge portion of our population has never experienced the feeling of fulfilment that comes from knowing that you have made something of yourself and have been a positive addition to this world. Those who have legitimate reasons for needing support have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, I think it’s fair to say that almost every Canadian is very happy to help those out that really need it. I also realize it is never simple, the very technology that we all seem to be in love with is changing our existence so fast that societal norms can’t develop to maintain some semblance of balance. The end result; the world is becoming an increasingly hard place to survive in; especially with any sort of mental well being.
So why this rant? I wasn’t even going to write anything this week because we are really busy but we have faced a first for Elmridge Farm and myself. A terrifying first. The weather was beautiful this week and we could, and should, have been in the fields yesterday planting but we weren’t. The sole reason for that is government interference. It leaves my blood boiling and a very deep sense of despair coupled with anxiety that can sap the positivity and will power out of even the most seasoned, hardened veteran; me. We are being screwed from two sides by government forces. The demands placed on us in the name of safety (food, environmental, human safety and decency; I’ve discussed all of these before) are increasing at an exponential rate. Suzanne spends more than 50% of her time dealing with a continuous string of red tape. It’s extremely frustrating work, especially when anyone with an ounce of brilliance can see that the vast majority of it is ridiculous and unnecessary. Add to that the threat of fines and punishment for non-compliance that come with every email and phone call and you have a recipe that will kill anyone over time. It’s 8:30 AM as I write and there has already been one "Service Canada” (the biggest oxymoron ever!) call that suzanne has to return immediately (!) even though they will only ever get back to us at their own leisure. The result is that we can’t even get bills paid on time and disorganization is causing issues with the physical function of the farm…..that’s not safe, that’s dangerous….our social net isn’t magic. Food rarely falls out of the sky.
On the other hand, in the name of safety, we can’t get anyone to get the physical work done on the farm. In this case it is protecting us from the threat of a global pandemic.We need a couple more guys ASAP but found out yesterday that the next flight from Mexico has been pushed up yet another week to mid April which means that the earliest possible date we can have them working is the last couple days of April….if everything goes smoothly. Unfortunately experience has taught us that it probably won’t go smoothly.
So it’s a double edged bureaucratic sword being used, in the name of safety, to bleed us to death with a thousand cuts! They are screwing with our food supply because they have lost sight of our reality as humans on this planet….AND THAT'S NOT SAFE!!!!!
Agriculture is where humanity still meets reality. We need to work with Mother Nature to be able to eat. She waits for no one regardless of the reason. As ba farmer I am faced with this humbling fact every day, but too many today have lost contact with this reality. The mindless arrogance with which take this for granted is at our own peril.
So please, at every opportunity, do what you can to snap this country out of its fantasy and;