January 15, 2018
With another busy season almost in the books, over 60 nursery growers, retailers and suppliers gathered at the Landscape Ontario’s Growers’ Sector Group Fall Dinner Meeting on Nov. 28 at Piper’s Heath Golf Course in Hornby, Ont.

The annual end-of-season event provided members of the growing community with an excellent opportunity catch up and discuss the challenges and successes of another year of operations and look ahead to the challenges and trends they will face in the future.

After networking and dinner, attendees were treated to two special guest speakers who offered insights and ideas on how nursery operators can adapt to, and minimize the effects of the recent minimum wage increase and other labour changes under Bill 148.

Ken Linington, Labour Issues Coordinating Committee (LICC), shared his insights on the changing labour force in North America due to changes in global labour standards and changing government policies. Formed in 1991, the LICC is a coalition of agricultural and farm organizations representing the interests of Ontario farm employers on labour related issues to the government.

Linington also explained how government is shifting more responsibility to business owners in regards to employees and how nursery operators could gain a future workforce by managing a more multicultural workforce due to the large migration of refugees and immigrants from other countries.

John Van de Vegte, engineer with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Environment Management Branch, shared a methodology that nursery producers can adopt that allows them to map, observe and quantify individual tasks or processes in order to improve productivity and efficiency, thus reducing labour and material costs.

With a history in the automotive production industry, Van de Vegte noted businesses sometimes get so involved in doing things a certain way that it sometimes takes an outsider to look at things in order to catch inefficiencies. Sometimes this can be as simple as bringing a new employee on board and listening to what other employees have to say.

Van de Vegte has some experience working with agricultural producers, and gave concrete examples on how to work more efficiently, such as how far workers had to walk for certain tasks, how many people were involved in a particular task, etc. He also mentioned shaving mere seconds off a simple, daily task performed my multiple workers could then easily translate into saving many hours over the length of an entire season, thus increasing productivity.

The venue also provided an update on activities by the Growers’ Sector Group, given by Growers’ Group chair John Mantel. Two big upcoming projects of the group are the annual Growers’ Short Course, Feb. 7 at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ont., and the Grower’s Grove display at Canada Blooms, March 9-18 in Toronto.