The Jamaican-Canadian farm connection

Donald (Rocky) Deyer has helped bring in the vegetable harvest on this Canadian farm for almost three decades.

Jamaican native Donald (Rocky) Dyer has helped bring in the harvest on this Canadian vegetable farm for almost three decades.

Farmer profile : Jamaican native Donald (Rocky) Dyer started working on a southwestern Ontario vegetable farm when he was just 29 years old. Now 58, he has spent most of his adult life helping with harvest in Canada. Like many seasonal workers, Dyer arrives on the farm in late spring and remains throughout the growing season — about six to seven months each year.

Working in Canada has allowed Dyer to put his three daughters and one son through school and to buy a better home – and says he makes 10 times more money in Canada than he could ever make back in Jamaica. Even though he misses his family, he looks forward to returning to Canada every year.

Featured: The Furrow magazine
Dyer's farm story was recently featured in The Furrow magazine, a John Deere publication.

"Parallel worlds" by agricultural journalist Lorne McClinton explores how guest workers give their families a better life by working abroad.

See the full story.

Courtesy of John Deere - Lorne McClinton

Courtesy of John Deere - Lorne McClinton

Farm labour

Canadian farmers increasingly need to hire additional people (besides family members) to help them with the work that needs to be done, especially as farms keep growing.  Technology and equipment help, but people are still the most important component of every farm.

Fruit and vegetable farmers in particular rely on many people to help them plant, manage and harvest their crops when there are no machines to do these jobs. Since 1966, workers have been coming from Mexico, Jamaica and countries in the Eastern Caribbean to work on Canadian fruit and vegetable farms through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program (SAWP). It’s a perfect match between Canadian farmers who have plenty of seasonal jobs and not enough workers to fill them and workers from countries where there’s a shortage of employment.

Dyer is one of the program’s many success stories. Approximately 20,000 people come to work in Canada through seasonal worker program every year and many have been coming for decades. Close relationships develop between many workers and the farm families they work for, and many workers also become involved in their adopted communities through volunteering and joining local service clubs and church groups. For more information, visit

Deyer shows his wife and daughter his feature story in The Real Dirt on Farming. Photo courtesy of John Deere - Lorne McClinton

Dyer shows his wife and daughter his feature story in The Real Dirt on Farming magazine. Photo courtesy of John Deere – Lorne McClinton

To read more farmer profiles like Dyer’s, check out The Real Dirt on Farming.

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