The City of Kingston and the Province of Ontario held a joint press conference Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, to introduce the Kingston & Area Community Training Farm project.
Located behind Centre 70 Arena at the corner of Front and Days Roads, the Kingston & Area Community Training Farm is a meticulously plotted diversified organic market garden operation, producing a wide variety of vegetable crops. The training farm has been created over the summer as part of a pilot project in community farming, with the goal of strengthening the local food ecosystem and creating a sustainable program to meet the talent needs of the agricultural sector in the region.
The Kingston & Area Community Training Farm project launched in June 2022, facilitated by the City of Kingston and under the management of Loving Spoonful, with St. Lawrence College (SLC) supporting the training needs of program participants with a Farm Worker Training Program. It is being funded through the Skills Development Fund, an initiative of Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development. The Skills Development Fund is supported by funding agreements between the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.
According to Ayla Fenton of Loving Spoonful, this free training program is intended to provide opportunities for job seekers experiencing barriers to employment who have historically been excluded from the agricultural sector: women, youth, newcomers to Canada, people living with mental health and/or addictions challenges, formerly incarcerated people, Indigenous people, and racialized people. The program has been able to accept almost all the people who applied to participate.
Participants receive hands-on and theoretical training to prepare them for work in the local agricultural industry, such as soil preparation, planting, crop/pest/weed management, harvesting, post-harvest handling, and farm infrastructure systems.
Participants who successfully complete the training program will be matched with a paid farm job placement starting in winter or spring 2023. Part-time and full-time jobs will be available. “The farmers that we’re working with are quite excited to be able to do it,” said Fenton.
“This project reflects the community and how we take care of each other and how we work… From the St. Lawrence College perspective, it’s right in our wheelhouse, and being able to support and be a part of this community initiative is a real pleasure for us,” said Glenn Vollebregt, President and CEO of SLC.
Overall, the project is a multi-partner workforce development initiative to deliver innovative skills training, which responds to the labour market needs of the agriculture sector while creating local employment opportunities.
Mayor Bryan Paterson expressed confidence in the pilot project.
“This project will create employment opportunities and positive employment outcomes in a sector that experienced significant labour market shortages pre-pandemic, while strengthening the resilience of the local food ecosystem and positioning the community for economic growth,” he said.
“In addition to supporting farmers and local food production, our project targets under-represented groups who have faced some of the largest economic impacts of the pandemic.”
Though not present, Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development commented in a press release: “Careers in farming and agriculture provide an opportunity to do meaningful, hands-on work while making a difference in your community. That’s why our government is investing in programs like the Community Training Farm, which give job seekers the skills they need to join in-demand industries, earning bigger pay cheques for themselves and their families.”
Fenton said program participants could make “anywhere from minimum wage up, depending on the scale of the [farm] operations [where they find a placement]… but there’s a pretty big diversity of positions available. We’re going to work with each participant and each employer to try to find good fits.”
Tracey Snow, Rural Economic and Community Development Manager for the City of Kingston, is proud to be a part of the project, which, she said, “will benefit our community and its residents for generations.”
Interested in taking a look for yourself? The Community Training Farm will be open for visits Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, as part of Open Farms 2022. Staff will be available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to give tours, and guests can even harvest some vegetables to take home.
For more information about participating in the Farmer Training Program, visit Loving Spoonful online.