WRITTEN BY JANET DAVIES
Sherry Nelson started at Highline Mushroom Farm as a young single mum, desperate to make ends meet. “I was trying to decide what to take in school, wondering how I could make it alone. I figured I’d work here for a year or so.” Twenty years later she is a Highline executive, recruiting, training and flying around the country on business. Along the way, Sherry has picked, packed, driven fork lift trucks and helped shape company policy. She knows firsthand about opportunities at Highline.”
“I was born and raised in The County, on the Demorestville side, but I’ve lived by Consecon Lake for 15 years. I’ve been married 17 years now, got two kids, four grandchildren and I’m still here at Highline! Honestly, I love it. It’s like family to me. In my actual family I have eight brothers and sisters here, seems like everybody comes back to The County eventually. Family get-togethers are one of my favourite things, and we spend a lot of time at the beach. We’re lucky to have North Beach, Roblin Lake, Wellington Beach and Sandbanks all within 15 minutes drive. We get done work and go for a barbecue at Roblin Lake where the kids can play.”
SHERRY’S CAREER – “I started at Highline part-time on the packaging line. Within six months I was fulltime, within two years I was helping supervise the department. I loved it. You meet a lot of different people here, and for me it really was like a big family. Everyone has their own reason for being here, but everyone works toward the same goal.
I immediately felt at home. At that time we grew portabella mushrooms and a small tightknit team picked just the ports. Within six months I became a QCT, quality control technician, at the front of the room, and then I moved up to supervisor. I moved over to whites – that’s white mushrooms – and became a supervisor there. I drove forklift for a few years, then became a trainer.
Today workers get a competitive wage, plus 80% health coverage, dental, optical, massage therapy coverage, they’re in the EAP program and we pay transportation costs of $6.35 a day. It’s hard work. It’s steady work. It is farming. Highline Mushrooms is agriculture, but it is definitely not seasonal. We grow and harvest 365 days a year, even Christmas Day, on a 26-day cycle that repeats non-stop all year round.”
THE WORKFORCE – “A third of our workforce is Temporary Foreign Workers, workers from outside the country, and they’re a pretty happy crowd. The groups get together a lot for celebrations, and for fishing. Fishing is big with our guys. We do different things here at the farm, we do dinners where the guys get involved and they do a lot of potluck dinners themselves, which are great because it’s mixed ethnic dishes. Really interesting, good food, so we have great food at our events and Christmas parties. What do our people do when they’re not working here? Most everybody loves the beaches, they’re definitely worth checking out.”
THE JOBS – “We are always recruiting for harvesters and packaging associates. Packaging operators weigh and package the product, both part time and full time. We need people to help case the growing rooms, that is to fill and empty the rooms. It is a tray farm, so people put in trays and set up catwalks and take it all out when the cycle is done. We hire people to work on the wharfs, run heavy equipment and do maintenance. There are a variety of positions from entry level staff to supervisors and managers.
In the past 10 years we have had to rely on foreign workers. We have grown a lot. Ten years ago our harvest department was 100 people and we had 12 offshore workers. Now we aim to have 140 people. We have increased our poundage enormously, by about 40,000 pounds a week. Right now we produce about 310,000 pounds a week and we’re shooting for 320,000 pounds.
Right now 57% of the workforce is from Belleville, about 25% from The County. We would love to encourage more people from The County to give it a try at Highline, because there is opportunity here.
I would never have expected to make my whole career here, but that is what happened. I have a corporate position, I travel to Alberta and British Columbia on company business. The company has supported me, encouraged me, trained me. It’s something that Highline is very good at, promoting people from within.”
April 11th, 2018, 10am-2pm
Prince Edward Community Centre, 375 Main St. Picton
About Highline Mushrooms
Highline Mushrooms was founded in 1961 by Dr. Murray O’Neil. We have farms in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and a distribution centre based in Montreal, Quebec. From humble beginnings, Highline Mushroom has grown to become the largest organic mushroom grower in the world and the second largest mushroom producer in North America.
Excellence Care Respect Effort Integrity Openness Fairness
These are the fundamental values that Highline Mushrooms is built on and they apply to everyone come into contact with. As we continue to grow in the coming years, we are confident that these same family values are the foundation that will carry us forward.