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From Away: Migrant Farmers in NS

by Heather Cosidetto

Vermeulen Farms - Zucchini Field, Pictured from L to R: Luis Conde Mendoza, Arturo Hernandez-Perez, Leonor Chimal Amador, Veatrice Salgado Perez.  Photo: Heather Cosidetto
Vermeulen Farms - Zucchini Field, Pictured from L to R: Veatrice Salgado Perez, Leonor Chimal Amador. Photo: Heather Cosidetto
Taproot Farm, Pictured from L to R: Aeon and Kingsley.  Photo: Patrick Little
Noggins Farm Corn Field, Pictured: Mark Johnson, Patrick Smith, Harlow Cunningham, Lexie Phillips.  Photo: Patrick Little
Spanish Mass led by Brian Macmillan at Catholic Church in Canning.  Photo: Ryan Buckley
photo: Heather Cosidetto
Noggins Farm – Corn Field, Pictured: Mark Johnson, Patrick Smith, Harlow Cunningham, Lexie Phillips.  Photo: Patrick Little
Taproot Farm, Pictured from L to R: Calvin Stacey and Gerald Stacey.  Photo: Patrick Little
Vermeulen Farms - Zucchini Field, Pictured: Luis Conde Mendoza, Arturo Hernandez-Perez, Leonor Chimal Amador, Veatrice Salgado Perez.  Photo: Ryan Buckley

Click on any of the above photos to view photo essay.

Where and how does the image of the migrant farmer appear in our pictured agricultural landscapes? This was the question that served as a focal point for Agri-Cultures, an Interdisciplinary Symposium on Trans-rural Economies, which took place at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts in Canning, NS September 18 – 20 this year. The symposium presented an opportunity for interdisciplinary dialogue on migrant farming practices in the province, and sought to open up a space for conversation about the social, political and artistic representation of agricultural labour today and in the future. 

At the heart of the symposium was From Away, a photo-documentary exhibition featuring images both of and taken by migrant farmers living and working in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. These farmers have come to Nova Scotia to help tend the soil from many other places, including South America, the Caribbean and other maritime provinces. 

The image of those “from away” remains distant in most instances, despite physical nearness. In what ways and for what purposes has the artistic representation of the farmer changed over the past 150 years with the spread of industrial agriculture?  Where and how does the image of the migrant farmer appear in our pictured landscapes? The Agri-cultures symposium presented an opportunity for interdisciplinary dialogue on the alterity of farmers, be they migrant or otherwise.

Photographs by Ryan Buckley, Heather Cosidetto and Patrick Little

Heather Cosidetto
is an artist, writer and educator and the current Program Director at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts. Cosidetto holds a BFA in Integrated Media from Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, BC and an MA in Culture, Science and Technology from Goldsmiths University in London, England.
Ryan Buckley is a recent graduate of NSCAD with a BFA in photography and soon to pursue a degree in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management. He is currently based in Newfoundland.
Patrick Little is a BC-based artist, photographer and sculptor currently pursuing his MSc in Forest Hydrology. His photographic subjects range from landscape and habitat photography to documentation of place and the industrial and agricultural workers who shape them.

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More about migrant workers

Thanks for the beautiful photos Heather!

I'd love to know more about these migrant workers.  How many come to NS each year?  Where do they come from?  What are their stories?  How are they treated when they're here? 

It would be great if someone wanted to do some interviews and follow-up on this.  Let me know if you're interested!  hillary|a|mediacoop.ca

Interesting stuff and nice

Interesting stuff and nice photography.

There must be a story going on in the background here...why are the farms getting people from other countries to do the farm work? And why are the workers coming to Nova Scotia to work on the farms?

Sharing Stories

Yes, absolutely, there are many stories to be told and to hear in these communities. For the photo-documentary project we intereviewed two of the farmers from Mexico with the aid of a translator, and we also supplied them with cameras so that they could take photos of their day to day lives. Excerpts from the interviews were featured in the gallery alongside their images.  Below you will find some of those excerpts, from an interview with Veatrice Salgado Perez (pronounced "Beatrice"). 

There is definitely more work and community outreach that can happen here, and I'm happy to say that Ross Creek has several projects in the works for next year, as a continuation of the work that was begun at the Agri-cultures Symposium.  Anyone who is interested to participate or has ideas for community outreach within the migrant farming community can submit expressions of interest to me at programs@artscentre.ca





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Interview with Veatrice Salgado Perez

at Fireside Café in Canning, Nova Scotia

September 6th, 2009 (12:30)

Translated by Anna Saroli

Transcribed by Stefan Morales


What do you grow most of [in your home town in Mexico]?

"Corn, Beans, Cilantro, Onions, Tomatoes, Chiles, lots of flowers.  Lot’s of water in that area."


Is it easy to find work there [in Mexico]? 

"Yes, it’s not that difficult to find work… the problem is that the salary is not that high."


How long have you been working in Nova Scotia?

"I’ve been working for 3 seasons in Canada, and 2 of those in Nova Scotia."


What led you to work as a migrant farmer? 

"I have a son, and I live at home with my parents, my dream is to have my own home somewhere, where I can be with my son.  So that’s why I decided to come.

I’ve bought a piece of land (in Pueblo), and I want to build a house on it."


How many more seasons until you’ve saved-up enough for this dream?’

"I like coming to Nova Scotia, so even after I have fulfilled my dream, I may still come."


What has your experience been here in Nova Scotia?

"My first experience in Canada was here in Nova Scotia… I was very scared when I came… I didn’t know where I was going, what kind of job I was going to have…what the boss was going to be like… where I was going…it’s a long, long trip… and you arrive somewhere where you can’t understand anybody, and you don’t know anybody…I understood the work in the field, but I didn’t know exactly how the boss wanted it to be done… and there are problems with communication, where the boss tells them something, but he doesn’t speak Spanish, so they’re not sure if they’re doing it right or wrong…the people who have been here longer show the new ones what do…"


Are there any bilingual people at Vermuelen’s farm?

"The first time I came Andy didn’t speak any Spanish, but now he’s been trying to learn, and he speaks quite a bit… its good for everybody, good for us and good for him."


"We have to learn the English, not only for here, but for going to other provinces...It would be helpful if the government, or someone else, were to give us talks about what our rights are when we come here… and the kinds of things that are available to us when we get here… I’m not sure who would be responsible for that though. If we want to learn English, it depends on us, and it depends on the boss."


"Every year when we come, a Columbian woman comes and she translates, and they tell all the new people all of the different things that they need to know, and we can ask questions and express any problems we have, so the Columbian woman passes on any of our concerns."


"In Ontario, there were free English classes on Sundays for anyone who wanted to go and learn English… they made available little booklets with basic pronunciation, basic phrases, that sort of thing… but there are many more Mexican workers in Ontario than here…"


"When we go shopping, we meet up with the other Mexican workers in the valley, every Friday.  There’s probably about 120 Mexican workers all together, we get this information from the Columbian woman."


What’s your least favorite thing about Nova Scotia?

"Chiles, there’s not enough chiles in the food here!"


What would you ask a fellow worker if you were interviewing them?

"I would ask a fellow worker how they feel here, working in this province, how they like it here in comparison with other provinces in which the salaries might be higher, and if its there first time and if they will come again."


Why do you choose to work in Nova Scotia?

"I like it in Nova Scotia because it’s quiet here, I like the work, and I like the farm, and the farmers give us lots of hours of work…"


"Because it’s a smaller farm and there are fewer Mexicans, it’s easier to get along than in places where I’ve been where there are more workers… sometimes there are frictions and stresses among the workers themselves…"


"They give us a good contract here: 4 months, so the work is good."


"And I like the landscape here, everything is very green and beautiful."





I wish there were better paying farming jobs in NS. I'd like to work in a greenhouse or vegetable farm but a person might make $10 and hour if they're lucky!

Thanks, heather, for

Thanks, heather, for involving me in this project!


thanks for article

Thanks! Has anyone heard anything about rapidshare search engines( http://www.rapidsharemix.com )?

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