A pile of photographs sits on Jane Andres’s dining room table. In them, faces beam out at the viewer: middle school-aged students wear caps and gowns to mark the successful end of a school year; three women, dressed up, gather on an armchair, a baby between them; and a man in worn work clothes, his face weathered by time, stands in a snowy Niagara orchard.
They’re perfect fodder for a family photo album, if people were still inclined to keep one. Instead, they’ll be part of an exhibit Andres is organizing to educate Niagara residents about the 2,600 men and women who come from the Caribbean and Mexico every spring to work in Niagara’s orchards, vineyards, and greenhouses for up to eight months a year.
The photos were taken by some of those workers to show their lives here and in their homelands; the families who make do during their long annual absences and the households sustained by their income earned abroad.
Andres, who operates a bed-and-breakfast in Niagara-on-the-Lake, displays the images to show Niagarans that those working on our farms as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) are valued members of their communities back home. She does it with the hope that people viewing the photos will make those workers feel equally appreciated here. “Our mission, it’s a simple one,” Andres says. “It’s to thank and welcome them, and you’re raising the profile of people who are essentially invisible.” —Continue reading—