Just down the road from Ottawa in Cornwall, a new kind of farm is working to ensure we have fresh leafy greens at any time of year … without having to truck them all in from south of the border.
Fieldless Farms uses Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) to grow all of its produce indoors. The ideal climate can be had year around, despite our Canadian weather. The farm also uses renewable energy and automated systems to ensure the perfect growing and harvesting environments for its crops. The shelves of Farm Boy are among the destinations for its products.
Consumers have come to realize just how important domestic food security is to keep grocery store shelves stocked, at reasonable prices. The latest agricultural tech still needs human intervention to get product picked, quality-checked, packed and shipped.
Fieldless Farms, like many businesses, has faced its challenges to attract and retain staff during the pandemic. From the very start of its commercial operations two years ago, the business realized it needed to be more open-minded and inclusive to find the reliable staff that it needed.
“We made sure to talk to all the local organizations that could assist with staff recruitment, training and retention,” said Patrick Knowles, the farm’s director of market development and strategy. “Today, about 20 per cent of our workforce identify as having a disability.”
Performance Plus Rehabilitative Care fills the gap
Ottawa’s PPRC is a bilingual rehabilitation company that serves as coach, facilitator and trainer for both employer and job seeker. Director of Rehabilitation Linda Simpson and the entire PPRC team, which includes a growing number of persons with disabilities, are masters at matchmaking. They want to ensure sustainable win-wins for all involved.
“From the very start, Linda and her team have always made a sincere effort to truly understand our business – they walk the site to get a real sense of the roles and responsibilities which we are looking to fill,” Knowles said. “They will not put forward someone whom they are not certain will be a good fit for the job.”
With PPRC’s candidates, Fieldless Farms doesn’t face the challenges it does with other prospective hires who just don’t show up or stick with the job.
“It really helps our business to have a partner like PPRC who will help us recruit reliable people who will stay with us,” Knowles added. “PPRC knows its clients and their capabilities. That makes it easy for a small business like ours without a large HR program to successfully tap into this part of the labour force.”
It’s all about finding the right fit for employer and jobseeker, and that both parties are prepared and confident about their new relationship, Simpson said. Supporting businesses with the education that will make them more informed about disabilities, removing barriers in the workplace and addressing any other concerns an employer may have.
“The most important thing is to treat others how you want to be treated – with respect and dignity,” said Simpson. “Listen and inquire about their accommodation needs and collaborate with that individual. We’ve learned that over time, collaboration with the person with a disability is the key to success, so we can source out what that person needs. In most cases, there’s very few costs related to accommodation in the workplace.”
The relationship and support, for everyone involved, continues long after the hire, Knowles added:
“We are really excited to keep working with PPRC as our business grows.”
What assistance do you need?
PPRC’s services are aimed at public and private sector employers of all sizes, as well as persons with disabilities (including newcomers to Canada) with any level of education. This includes individuals who may already have experience or skills in a specific field but need advice on how to return to work or start a new career while managing their disability.
PPRC also provides fee-based Disability Awareness and Etiquette Training across Canada. Visit www.pprc.ca to learn more.