It all started with a COVID-19 outbreak in March on VRP Farms in Picture Butte, Alberta.
“It was an extremely trying time,” says Jolayne Farn, HR Manager of VRP. “Having 11 confirmed cases and 42 staff off work and quarantined showed us we never wanted to have to operate like that again. Even though we currently had strict control measures in place to help prevent COVID-19 from entering our facilities it still found us.”
Farn says it affected everyone ꟷ from barn crew to pen riders to the management team ꟷ and the business saw significant impacts. “One lot had NO riders, four lots were out of commission, and ensuring the cattle were fed each day, we were totally off the market for a week ꟷ no shipping, no bringing animals in. The effects staggered all the way into the next month,” Farn explains.
VRP Farms operates a number of feedlots and farms, a trucking division, and the Roto-Mix business. Their reach is far and contact tracing was a significant undertaking.
VRP recently brought in 11 workers through the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and are working with Calgary Catholic Immigration Society to obtain support on newcomers’ settlement for social insurance numbers, bank accounts, mailing addresses, drivers’ licenses, etc. This led to the idea of vaccinating everyone on site to reduce travel and logistics coordination.
“For the health and safety of our employees, our farm, and our community, we wanted everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” says Farn, adding they vaccinated about 55 people on site. “We opened it up to neighbouring feedlots and farms as well, and it was great to see a couple of other operations join in on the day.”
“We just want other producers to know that their foreign workers are as eligible as the Canadian workers and able to be protected as well.”
AHS took the time to acknowledge VRP Farms, “They really did a tremendous job with their plans and collaborative discussions. What they had drafted, they could demonstrate with our discussions and our site visit. We really want to extend our appreciation for this company role-modelling a strong plan and creating a culture of COVID-19 safety amongst the competing and demanding work they do in the ag sector.”