Van Belle Nursery hopes to build a 70-bed residence for temporary foreign workers. City of Abbotsford images

Lower Mainland nursery’s plan to house 70 temporary workers hailed as a ‘template’ for other farms

Council lauds farm’s proposal to build new housing for temporary foreign workers

A large Abbotsford nursery hopes to build a 70-bedroom modular residence to house its temporary farm workers.

Council applauded Van Belle Nursery’s proposal Monday and agreed to forward it to the Agricultural Land Commission, which will get the final say.

Coun. Ross Siemens said the business is an example of how temporary workers should be treated and housed.

“For a number of years we’ve heard of some of the frustrations with how some temporary farm workers have been housed and I think this family has proven again to be leaders in the industry not just in their product but leaders in how they should be treating their temporary farmworkers,” Siemens said. “I think this is a great template and really sets a standard that we should hope others aspire to.

“I think it’s the ethical thing to do, but it also just makes a tremendous amount of sense with how their operations are running.”

Van Belle Nursery grows plants for garden centres and retail nurseries across North America. It employs between 60 to 70 permanent staff, but says it relies upon more than 100 seasonal workers during its peak season. Many of those are temporary workers from outside the country whom the farm is obligated to provide those people with housing.

The proposal presented to council shows a long single-storey building, with 35 individual bedrooms within several inter-connected modules linked by a central hallway. The front of the building would include a kitchen and living area in the front along with a covered deck. Mayor Henry Braun said the mobile nature of the building means it can be removed if it becomes unnecessary.

Eighty-nine temporary farmworkers employed at the Van Belle Nursery are currently housed in buildings at two other growing sites, and in homes rented elsewhere in town. The new building would allow the farm to house 70 workers on its Hallert Road site, instead of renting homes elsewhere.

Braun noted that the new building will also help free up homes elsewhere in Abbotsford, which had a rental vacancy rate of one per cent last year.

In its application to the Agricultural Land Commission, the nursery said it was chosen for a 2016 visit by the Mexican ambassador because it was “an excellent example of how the [Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program] should function.”

RELATED: Dozens of farmworkers displaced after fire tears through building

RELATED: Aquilini-owned blueberry farm ordered to pay $131,000 to foreign workers


@ty_olsen
Do you have more information? Email: tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Abbotsford has a COVID-19 rate 10 times higher than Chilliwack

Abbotsford has been much harder hit by COVID-19 than its neighbour to the east

Chilliwack illusionist Chris Funk brings live magic, music to Cultural Centre

‘You’ll see some creations that have made appearances on some of the largest television shows in the world’

River scavenger hunt on tap

IGotSASS hosts a hunt for the most environmentally significant spots in Agassiz-Harrison

Community Camera: September 24, 2020

Submit your photos to news@ahobserver.com.

Chilliwack’s Gary Robbins maps out epic trail across eight mountains

Robbins spent nearly 40 hours covering 110 miles and over 10,000 metres of elevation gain

B.C.’s top doctor thanks supporters after revealing threats over COVID-19 measures

Dr. Bonnie Henry says COVID-19 has caused some people to lash out in anger and frustration out of fear

B.C.-born Trybe social media app’s award system connects with Nickelback singer

Rock stars, jet planes, scooter tricks and the creation of a new platform ready for launch

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

B.C. VOTES 2020: Speculation tax misses speculators, B.C. Liberals say

Andrew Wilkinson, John Horgan clash over housing costs, solutions

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

NDP, Greens divided on pace of child care improvements in B.C. election campaign

NDP Leader John Horgan recommitted to $10-a-day child care and blamed the Greens for not supporting his efforts

Wind warning for White Rock, South Surrey

Gusts up to 90 km/h expected from Richmond to Langley Friday (Sept. 25) morning

Most Read