Grape Growers of Ontario meet with Premier Wynne

October 13, 2017 - ST. CATHARINES, ON: Grape harvest is in full swing in Ontario, and the Grape Growers of Ontario welcomed the opportunity to meet with Premier Kathleen Wynne in the vineyards of grape grower Bill George in Beamsville.

The Premier had a birds-eye view of the vineyards from the seat of a harvester. The harvest is at the mid-point with white varieties such as Riesling and Chardonnay typically harvested early in the season followed by the later maturing red varieties.  While the rain has slowed down harvest this week, the return to warm and dry weather is expected over the next week.

Pictured: Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario; Bill George, Vice Chair, Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers' Association; Matthias Oppenalender, Chair, Grape Growers of Ontario.

The Grape Growers of Ontario were pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the Premier to discuss topics of importance to grape growers and hear first-hand about issues that are impacting farm families. The planned increase in minimum wage is one of the key issues for growers. “While we appreciate the intent behind the increase in minimum wage to improve the livelihood of minimum wage earners, we explained clearly the impact that it will have on farm families, and are pleased that the Premier understands our issues”, says Matthias Oppenlaender, Chair, Grape Growers of Ontario. 

“Normal labour costs for horticulture farms are about 65% of operating earnings, making it the highest on-farm expense,” says Bill George, Vice Chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. “The increase announced for next year can push labour costs to as much as 90% of operating earnings.”

There is a very real need for financial assistance to transition to the higher minimum wage to protect family farms, as well as support for local VQA wine made of 100% Ontario grown grapes to ensure a market for the fruits of their labour.