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Now hiring: the next generation of B.C. agriculture, food workers

Press Release

June 26, 2023

VICTORIA – A new workforce initiative will support British Columbia’s agriculture and food industry in recruiting and retaining the workers who will help provide a stable food supply for a growing population in B.C. and around the world.

“The demand for B.C. food and beverage products continues to grow, and we need to address labour challenges now, so we can continue to rely on B.C.’s agriculture and food sector in the future,” said Pam Alexis, Minister of Agriculture and Food. “Our government is working hard to increase the number of B.C. agriculture workers so we will have a safe and resilient local food supply for generations to come.”

The Agriculture and Food Workforce Development Initiative will provide as much as $15 million to help strengthen the workforce by:

  • improving recruitment and retention of domestic workers and supporting targeted training to develop a skilled workforce;
  • implementing labour-market development strategies and workforce plans; and
  • supporting the health and well-being of the agriculture and food workforce.

AgSafe is the first organization supported under the new program and will receive $755,000 to expand mental-health services to the B.C. agriculture sector. This funding will support the expansion of AgSafe’s mental wellness in agriculture initiative that encourages producers to reach out for help and offers mental wellness resources for the agricultural community.

The Agriculture and Food Workforce Development Initiative is funded by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.


Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction –

“We all want people to have access to nutritious, healthy food. That’s why we’ve partnered with Investment Agriculture Foundation to fund the support people need to find and keep good stable jobs in the high-demand food and agriculture sector.”

Wendy Bennett, executive director, AgSafe BC –

“AgSafe has made the mental health and well-being of B.C.’s producers a top priority and we are thankful for the support of our partners. We know that the agriculture industry is experiencing a mental-health crisis – compounded by floods, wildfires, heat domes and drought. With this funding, we will be able to expand our mental wellness initiative to develop and deliver more much-needed resources and tools that are specific to agriculture.”

David Mutz, berry farmer, BC Agriculture Council director, and chair of BC Agriculture Council’s labour committee –

“The ongoing labour shortage in the agriculture sector will be detrimental to the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and ranchers in our province if we don’t act now. In fact, just half a decade ago, we faced a shortage of just over 3,000 agriculture workers, but by the end of this decade, the number of unfilled jobs is expected to increase dramatically, nearly five-fold, to over 15,000 missing workers in the agriculture sector. BC Agriculture Council welcomes this initiative as a strategic contribution to shifting our agriculture workforce in the direction of meeting the market demand for workers and ensuring food security for British Columbians.”

Jack DeWit, chair, Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC (IAF) –

“Supporting producers and processors is supporting skills and training, and health and well-being of those producers and processors across generations. IAF looks forward to delivering this funding, working with the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food to further refine and implement the programs to support the goal of improving labour resources in B.C.’s agriculture sector.”

Learn More:

Further details about the Agriculture and Food Workforce Development Initiative and anticipated program launches and application deadlines are available here:

AgSafe mental health wellness resources:

Two backgrounders follow.


Dave Townsend
Media Relations
Ministry of Agriculture and Food
250 356-7098
250 889-5945 (mobile)


Facts about B.C.’s agriculture sector and mental health

  • The B.C. agriculture, food and seafood sector had combined revenues of more than $18 billion in 2021, and were 12% higher than the previous record of $16.1 billion in 2020.
  • B.C. exported a record $5.1 billion in agriculture, seafood, and processed food and beverage products to 151 different international markets in 2021.
  • B.C. produces more than 200 primary agriculture products and about 100 fish, shellfish and marine plant species.
  • In 2021, there were more than 79,000 agriculture, seafood, and food and beverage processing sector jobs in B.C.
  • Research has found that Canadian farmers face higher levels of mental distress than the general public and are generally less likely to seek help.
  • A 2021 study found that 76% of Canadian farmers are classified as experiencing perceived moderate or high stress scores and one in four have thoughts of suicide.


Dave Townsend
Media Relations
Ministry of Agriculture and Food
250 356-7098
250 889-5945 (mobile)


Projects supported by the Agriculture and Food Workforce Development Initiative

Recruitment, Retention and Innovative Skills and Training Program

  • Adopting new innovative skills and training programs for the agriculture and food sector to recruit and train workers;
  • Development/delivery of tools, resources or technologies that support worker recruitment, retention and/or co-ordination of seasonal workers;
  • Pilot initiatives that reduce an identified barrier to participation in the workforce (e.g. transportation, flexible scheduling).
  • The program will open for applications in winter 2023-24.

Indigenous Food Systems and Agriculture Skills and Training Program

  • Skills and training programs to increase Indigenous participation in agriculture and food processing and/or to support the revitalization of cultural and economic food harvesting, production and processing practices;
  • Increased capacity for Indigenous participation, leadership, and Indigenous-led training and extension services in the agriculture and food sector, and community economic development initiatives.
  • The program will be open for applications on Sept. 12, 2023.

Student Summer Farm Work Bursary Program

  • Increasing youth employment in the agriculture sector through a tuition-incentive program to support summer labour needs.
  • The program will open for applications in winter 2023-24.

Regenerative Agriculture Practices and Technology Adoption Training

  • Ensuring employers and employees have access to training resources and curriculum to support the adoption and implementation of regenerative practices and/or agritech.
  • Existing resources are updated and new resources are created to support regenerative practices and new technology.
  • The program will open for applications in spring 2024.

Mental-health wraparound supports

  • Improving awareness and access to mental-health and wellness support services for employees and employers in the agriculture sector;
  • New worker mental health and well-being initiatives established in B.C.;
  • Increasing uptake of available support services from agriculture workforce (for both employees and employers).
  • The new AgSafe program is underway.

Workforce Analysis and Planning Program

  • Improving the understanding of issues and barriers that face the agriculture labour market;
  • Developing targeted strategies and implementation plans based on existing labour market analysis, data, strategies and plans with clearly defined outcomes to address and assess labour-market issues.
  • The program will open for applications on July 11, 2023.


Dave Townsend
Media Relations
Ministry of Agriculture and Food
250 356-7098
250 889-5945 (mobile)

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