Harvest Pilgrims: Migrant Farm Workers in Ontario

AuthorVincenzo Pietropaolo
Harvest Pilgrims: Migrant Farm
Workers in Ontario
Vincenzo Pietropaolo
Spanning the years 1984–2009, the photographs in this section are from
a series on Ontario migrant farm workers. During this time, I also docu-
mented them in their home countries of Mexico, Jamaica, and Montserrat.
Most are featured in my book Harvest Pilgrims: Mexic an and Caribbean
Migrant Farm Workers in C anada (Between the Lines, Toronto, 2009).
Since the earliest days of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program
(SAWP), agriculture in Ontario has been transformed from the traditional
family farm to single-crop industrial agricultural operations. Although the
migrant farm workers are, in essence, a temporary work force, in the past
forty years, they have become completely entrenched in the agricultural
economy, so much so that farmers and economists acknowledge that
they have become indispensible to the well-being of Ontario agriculture.
The majority of the workers return year after year to the same farms, in a
modern-day pilgrimage of the harvest from south to north. Yet they lack
many of the rights that other workers enjoy, such as collective bargaining,
overtime pay, and appeals procedures. Society has come to accept the
unsavoury notion that in order to have an assured food supply, we have to
continue to exploit foreign guest workers. Simply put, local food would not
be possible without the importation of migrant farm workers. The following
photographs offer a glimpse into their lives.
Above: Manuel González, who had been working in Ontario for eight months,
becomes emotional upon greeting his eldest sister on his return home
to the small village of Monte Prieto, Guanajuato, Mexico. (1993)
Vincenzo Pietropaolo140
On their f‌irst morning in Canada, these workers are driven to a store in St. Cath-
arines, Ontario, to buy groceries and equipment (such as rubber boots), using a
cash advance from their employer. (1987)
Mexican migrant farm workers arrive in Canada at the Toronto International
Airport (now known as the Pearson International Airport) at the beginning of the
work season. (1987)

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