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Adiós, amigos, and muchas gracias!

Christo Magin Gonzalez, Tanner Price, and Reyes Herrera Morales make it possible for a lot of Canadians to shop local. Photo: RWN

“Shop local” has become almost a mantra for consumers in 2021. Whether residents are hoping to protect the environment or to boost the local economy after COVID, “shopping local” has become a virtuous point of pride for Canadians.

Ironically, many of the workers who make local production possible leave their homes and families far behind to do it.

Like the delivery person setting an Amazon package at the front door and disappearing before you ever even knew they were there, labourers from other nations arrive in Canada without fanfare every spring to help plant, tend and then harvest the essential crops we eat. Then, they disappear without a trace in the fall; we don’t even pause to say “thank you” or “good-bye.”

Christo Magin Gonzalez is from Vera Cruz and has been making the trip from Mexico to Price’s Farm and Country  Market in Bowmanville for 15 years through Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program.

“He is family now,” says farmer Tanner Price. At 30 years old, Tanner has known and worked with Christo for half of his life. Reyes Herrera Morales, from Sonora, Mexico, has worked at three different Canadian farms but seems to have settled in for the long haul at Price’s.

Christo and Reyes make the trip from home in Mexico to work in Bowmanville every May and stay until October, when the harvest is complete. There is absolutely no question that the trek is worth it: in Canada, they earn in one hour what it takes them a week to earn in Mexico. One 14-hour day in Canada is two weeks’ wages in Mexico and they are exceedingly good at the work. It would be a nearly-perfect arrangement, if not for one thing:

“Familia! Familia!” the men exclaim in chorus. “Familia est Numero Uno!”

“Missing graduations and birthdays,” Reyes sighs.

Technologies like WhatsApp are helping just a little, allowing the men to stay in touch with loved ones during their sojourn in Canada; but there is no question, they miss an enormous amount of their own families’ lives during the full half of every year they are apart from them.

Christo Magin Gonzalez (right) farms his own successful coffee plantation when he is home in Mexico. Reyes Herrera Morales worked on farms with hundreds of Seasonal workers before he came to Price’s family farm in Bowmanville.

Clearly, these guys enjoy working at Price’s. Both have spent time working on much larger, industrial farms with hundreds of workers living in spartan bunk houses and no sense of camaraderie. They much prefer their current arrangement, where they are the only two Seasonal workers living on the farm (a team of local Canadian workers also support the farm).

Although virtually every waking moment of their every day is dedicated to food production, they have very little time to think about food for themselves. “Quick foods” Tanner describes their daily diet, “Sausages, eggs, vegetables, lots of tortillas and refried beans. Anything 20 minutes or less: fast and simple food.”

When they get back to Mexico, though, it’s another story: they look forward to a giant feast with family that may take hours or days to prepare. Christo will transition seamlessly back to tending his own successful coffee plantation. Everyone will make the most of their half-year at home.

Adiós, amigos, and muchas gracias!