Food and Labour

The Antinomies of Unwaged Labour in the Alternative Food Movement

Why have organic and agroecological farmers in Ontario, Canada and beyond, come to rely on the non-waged work of interns, apprentices and volunteers seeking training in alternative production techniques? Is this non-waged work an outgrowth of the precarious situations that farmers and young women and men find themselves in? Or, does it reflect an attempt to build a social movement focused on sustainable and just alternatives to conventional agriculture?  Can these two dynamics be teased apart from one another or do they represent a constant tension negotiated by farmers, workers and the food movement?

Professor Michael Ekers' collaborative project investigates the role of non-waged (e.g. intern, apprentice and volunteer) labour on small-scale farms in Ontario. Drawing on debates on the ‘agrarian question’, this research project seeks to understand the reasons behind the use of non-waged labour, the key dimensions of the intern experience and the pursuit of social and environmental justice within the food movement in Ontario, Canada. In what is the first study of new forms of unpaid labour in the agroecological food movement, we endeavor to discover if socially-just labour is a key part of the alternative food movement, and how a consideration of labour and agrarian questions might alter small-scale forms of food production.

Explore the project's website.