Seasonal farm workers and community members gathered in Simcoe on Sunday for a friendly soccer contest.
In its second year to hit the pitch, the Farms of Norfolk Football Association event attracted eight teams, two more than last year. The tournament, held at the Simcoe soccer park, brings together the community and the seasonal agricultural workers in a fun round-robin event.
“It’s about community engagement and bringing folks together in celebrating our labourers and highlighting the different pieces of the agricultural narrative in Norfolk County,” said Carrie Sinkowski, a community developer for the Community Legal Clinic – Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk.
She said the tournament is a way to give back to workers and include them into the community.
Farmers in Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk employ about 7,000 labourers each year.
“It’s competitive, but that’s a good thing … because everyone comes to win and no one wants to lose,” said player Rayan Reid, who hails from Jamaica and works at Berlo’s Best Sweet Potatoes.
Reid and his team practised for a few weeks in preparation for the tournament.
“We know what we want to do and we have a plan, so, hopefully, we execute it properly.”
The farms sponsor their teams to play and the FNFA asks for donations from local businesses. This year, a $2,700 grant was received from Norfolk County.
Each game has 15-minute halves.
This year, flags were featured to represent the players’ home countries, mainly Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.
In July, the Norfolk Seasonal Agricultural Workers Community Committee hosted a health fair to highlight sun protection and bicycle safety.
Sinkowski, a member of the committee, said she believes more can be done.
“We’re trying to work from what the community is expressing what they want, rather than deciding what we think the community wants,” she said.
The committee hopes to organize a domino tournament.
“I think it’s important to become a more welcoming and inclusive community,” said Sinkowski. “We can do better.”
Some workers call Norfolk home for up to eight months of the year and are unable to see their families during that time.
Damion Prince left behind his six-year-old son in Trinidad and Tobago.
“At the end of the day, it’s a sacrifice I’m making to better myself.”
Prince was the honorary coach for Schuyler Farms’ team. He decided to support the players with loud cheering and Soca music from his home country.
He said his favourite part of the event is “uniting everyone … and coming out and having a good time and being safe, too.”
For local Raul Henriquez, the event is about watching some good soccer. He was watching Schuyler Farm versus Lusos FC, the local Simcoe team.
“It’s pretty close,” he said of a game between Schuyler Farm and Lusos FC, a Simcoe team. “It’s nice when there’s a fight to get the first goal.”
Henriquez said he would like to see the tournament continue.
“I think it’s great to get all the workers together from offshore and I think it’s great for Simcoe to get everybody together to have fun.”