Leamington Farm Gets Refugee Award

File photo of workers at Highline Mushrooms. (Photo courtesy Highline Mushrooms)

A Leamington business is being recognized by the federal government for its work with refugees.

Highline Mushrooms is one winner of the 2016 Employer Awards for Refugee Employment.

Director of human resources Susan McBride says the company has a rich history of employing refugees since they opened in 1961.

“We were their first place of employment, we helped them to learn English as a second language and several of them have later gone part-time while they’ve gone back to school,” says McBride. “Some are now social workers, settlement workers, nurses.”

With a diverse workforce speaking 12 different languages, McBride says they will always help newcomers with employment.

“Dr. Murray O’Neil founded Highline in 1961 and always had a vision to passionately nourish people, community and the environment and that is something that he instilled in this company,” she says. “That is part of why we do what we do everyday.”

With the influx of Syrian refugees in Windsor-Essex, the company plans to hire many more. Highline has already created flyers in Arabic explaining what the company has to offer.

“At this point we haven’t actually hired any of the incoming refugees because they’re not ready yet — basic needs need to be met before we start talking about employment,” McBride says.

Future dates have been set aside for farm tours and employment sessions once the refugees are ready for work.

The company employs about 1150 people and has two farms in Leamington, one in Kingsville and another in Wellington, ON.

Highline estimates about 70% of its staff are English as a second language, some with limited or no English.