For the 12th year in a row, Jane Andres is planning a big thank-you to Niagara-on-the-Lake's migrant farm workers by coordinating the annual Peach Pickers' Picnic.
The smells of island food will waft across the fields near Garrison Village, accompanied by the sounds of gospel and reggae music, as the event turns the market grounds into Jamaica-on-the-Lake for a night.
“The heroes of this event are the farm workers,” said Andres.
“I would just love for our community to overwhelm them with gratitude and kindness. Come shake a worker’s hand and thank him by buying him a meal for ten bucks.”
Andres has long been a champion of the town's farm workers, often driving around town with her car loaded with bottles of cold water and watermelon wedges to hand off to her friends in the fields.
“These people are what made our town rich,” she said.
“Without them, there would be no wineries, no large fruit farms. When the Agricultural Worker program was launched in 1966, it allowed local farmers to plan for growth. And look at us now, thanks to these guys.”
She said she coordinated the peach picnic event to celebrate our “temporary neighbours,” many who have been coming here from Jamaica and Mexico for decades. The event replaces the Workers Welcome concerts formerly held at Orchard Park Bible Church.
“We needed more space and less structure. We would get more than 800 people at the concerts — there just wasn’t room for them,” said Andres.
“The logistics were complicated too, because they’re often working well into the evening, so they may not get off in time to make it to a concert.”
At the peach picnic event, which runs later, workers can make their way over as the work day ends and still have time to enjoy the festivities.
The picnic is open to all members of the community, who will be able to purchase meals for workers — and for themselves.
Caribbean and Mexican food will be available from professional caterers, along with live music — many songs being performed by the workers themselves, backed up by members of local band Random Task.
Andres encourages those who attend to bring a ukulele and join in for a rendition of Bob Marley’s One Love at the end of the night.
The event will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the site of the weekly Market at the Village and SupperMarket on Niagara Stone Road.