A $20-million investment by Highline Mushrooms will create approximately 120 new jobs for Albertans, according to a statement released by the company.
The new farm will be built adjacent to Highline's existing facility east of Crossfield. According to Rocky View County (RVC) CAO Al Hoggan, the County is excited to see an agricultural expansion like this within its borders.
“We really appreciate organizations such as Highline – [companies that] add value and enhance agri-business,” he said. “They take a product, market a product, create employment and create all those things that come with employment that impact the local economy. We're thrilled to see it. We couldn't be happier.”
Founded in 1961 and based out of Ontario, Highline Mushrooms acquired the southern Alberta operation, All Seasons Mushrooms, in 2016. The mushroom farm currently employs more than 190 workers in RVC, but Highline said the previous provincial government created issues regarding employment standards.
Aaron Hamer, Highline Mushrooms’ CEO, said the New Democratic Party’s “decision to de-list mushroom farms as primary agriculture was a mistake.” According to Highline’s communications advisor Janet Krayden, the move came as a surprise and without an explanation.
“We never knew why it was, when the final information came out,” she said.
The decision listed mushroom farms as neither farms nor ranches, Krayden said. The document she said she received stated not “all minimum requirements under employment standards apply” to mushroom farms.
“By being de-listed, it basically was the employment standards that were affected. It affects [Highline’s] harvest scheduling, and that's why we’re wanting to go back to the farm employment standards,” she said. “We would like mushrooms included as primary agriculture, like other farms.”
"Mushrooms expand in size [by] four per cent every hour, or double in size in a single day, so our farm’s harvest demands are constant and ongoing,” Hamer said.
Hamer credits the upcoming expansion to the new provincial government’s initiative to repeal and replace Bill 6, a controversial agricultural workplace legislation introduced in 2016 – Alberta’s new “open for business philosophy,” he said.
Highline Mushrooms celebrated the announcement of the expansion at a ground-breaking event Aug. 15, attended by Hoggan, Minister of Agriculture Devin Dreeshen and Speaker of the House Nathan Cooper.
“We appreciate the opportunity to consult with Minister Dreeshen and Nathan Cooper, our local MLA,” Hamer said. “We are pleased that the Government of Alberta is prioritizing [the] workforce and workplace safety and recognizing agriculture’s unique workforce requirements. This is the essential balance that will ensure success for our farm.”