The Creston Valley Agriculture Workers Campground is open, turning the Kozy Tent and Trailer Campground into a hub for ready-to-work pickers.

Prompted by public safety concerns amid COVID-19, the Creston Valley – Kootenay Lake Economic Action Partnership (EAP) scrambled during spring to make short-term accommodations available for the harvest season. 

SEE: COVID-19 guidelines for orchards and pickers prompts support from the Creston Valley – Kootenay Lake Economic Action Partnership

Located at 3003 hwy 3 Erickson, B.C., The Creston Valley Agriculture Workers Campground’s max capacity is 50 guests with 23 sites.

Camping costs $5 a night per person.  An on-site attendant is there to aid guests and enforce safety guidelines which include making sure guests stay in their bubble. 

One of the camp’s main priorities is to follow guidelines set in place by the British Columbia Provincial Heath Officer.

Amenities include washrooms, showers, WiFi, electricity at each site, and coin laundry.  

The kitchen has refrigerators and washing stations, but guests are encouraged to cook at their site rather than creating a communal cooking/gathering area.

Guests should not get too comfortable at this location, as it does not have the capacity to house working pickers in the Valley.

“This is not a camp that will replace on-farm accommodations,” said EAP Community Economic Development Coordinator Aaron Gregory. “This is a camp for people who are in-between jobs who aren’t working. Some people come to the valley and they don’t have a place to go when they first show up, so they spend the first few days and they have to camp in unsafe areas.”

EAP Community Economic Development Coordinator Aaron Gregory (supplies by Jensen Shields)

Though seasonal workers flock to the Creston Valley every year to provide a much needed service, Gregory explained that in the past no camp had been allocated for them, thus forcing transient workers to camp illegally along the Goat River or in other hidden pockets with no amenities. 

“This has always been a problem here in Creston, but of course, given the current pandemic that we’re going through, this poses a greater health risk. Not only for the workers themselves, but also the public at large,” said Gregory.

In response to the  risk of COVID-19 transmission among seasonal workers, stricter measures have been enforced by the Province. These guidelines must be followed by both the employees and the employers. Campers who wish to stay must complete  self-assessment documents, more information is provided in French and English in pamphlets on site.  

SEE: Online COVID-19 safety course required for pickers as temporary campgrounds begin to dot the Interior

The Creston Valley Agriculture Workers Campground also provides pickers with the means to find work.

“We’ve been working closely with Kootenay Employment Services to post agricultural jobs available for workers,” Gregory added. “So lets say a person does become unemployed, they can come back here, look at the board and see what jobs are available.”

In the summer of 2019, a group of pickers protested on Canyon Street in downtown Creston. They demanded better living conditions in their camps as not every orchard has the same level of amenities. 

Gregory said he is proud of what the EAP has achieved in providing a facility which he hopes serves as a template for others to follow. 

“I do know we have very nice accommodations here and we obviously encourage orchardists, for the workforce they have coming in, that they’re provided with the necessary accommodations to make their work enjoyable,” said Gregory. “So that they have a nice place to go when they’re finished work, and that it’s a very welcoming place.” 

There are two showers in both the women’s and men’s bathrooms.

 

Located in Erickson, the majority of orchards are only a hop, skip and a jump away from the camp (supplied by Jensen Shields)