Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Raising Hope For Hampstead

On February 6, 2012, 10 migrant farm workers from Peru died when the packed van that was taking them from their recent shift at a local chicken farm crashed into a flatbed truck on a rural side road 23 kilometers outside of Stratford (near the community of Hampstead). The driver of the flatbed also died. One three-decade veteran of the OPP described it as the worst crash he had ever seen.

Regretfully, migrant farm workers in Canada do not enjoy the same benefits as many other workers, nor do they receive salaries that would allow them to save money for their families in case of tragic emergencies.     

In response to this horrific accident and the terrible situation facing the families of the migrant workers who died, Susan Dunfield of Down the Street Bar & Restaurant organized a fundraiser. Last Saturday night she gave our community the opportunity to show the families of these people that Stratford cares about what happened, and to help them out financially in the wake of their tragic loss.  

To help her organize the entertainment for this fundraiser, Susan partnered with Stewart Reynolds, talented producer and frontman of Brittlestar (above). They were able to put together a stellar line-up of talent, who performed to a packed house at the Masonic Lodge (which is a great venue for live music, it was actually my first time there). Along with Stewart's solo act, local star-in-the-making Emm Gryner performed, as well as rock trio Plum Loco and blues act Whoa Miss Mojo and DJ Myagi and DJ Wigs along with lots of others.

Members of the local farming community also pitched in to help raise funds. Chris and Mark Lass of Lassdale Farm donated some of their grass-fed beef for the BBQ Beef Sandwiches that were available (that's Mark above double-fisting a couple). 

Fred and Ingrid de Martines of Perth Pork Products donated their pasture raised heritage breed pork for Pulled Pork Sandwiches (above, that's DJ Wigs digging in to one before his set). In addition to great food, beer and wine there were all sorts of great items donated to raise funds via the live auction, which included a dinner for two at the Stratford Chefs School next season!

Appropriately, Perth County's favourite singing farmer Antony "The Manic Organic" John of Soiled Reputation Farm also contributed to the musical entertainment, and was a huge hit (that's him crooning above, he was officially the first act to get the crowd on their feet and dancing!). 

I say "appropriately" because I know Antony well as a friend of the blog and a vendor at the Slow Food Sunday Market. Antony and his wife Tina take a great deal of care to ensure fairness for their farm workers, both in terms of the conditions under which they labour and the pay they receive for their hard work. I have heard Antony mention that rather than investing in steel and machinery, they invest in people, and I can think of literally dozens of community members who have spent their summers working at Soiled Reputation. I hope that this tragedy serves to bring attention to the employment arrangements migrant workers like the ten Peruvian men who died are often subjected to, so others like them might enjoy the same kind of fairness and safety as the workers on Antony and Tina's farm.

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