In the blizzard of attention around the virtues of local food production, food writers and activists place environmental protection, animal welfare, and saving small farms at the forefront of their attention. Yet amid this turn to wholesome and responsible food choices, the lives and working conditions of farmworkers are often an afterthought.
Labor and the Locavore focuses on one of the most vibrant local food economies in the country, the Hudson Valley that supplies New York restaurants and farmers markets. Based on more than a decade’s in-depth interviews with workers, farmers, and others, Gray’s examination clearly shows how the currency of agrarian values serves to mask the labor concerns of an already hidden workforce.
She also explores the historical roots of farmworkers’ predicaments and examines the ethnic shift from Black to Latino workers. With an analysis that can be applied to local food concerns around the country, this book challenges the reader to consider how the mentality of the alternative food movements implies a comprehensive food ethic that addresses workers’ concerns.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Is Local Food an Ethical Alternative?
1 • Agrarianism and Hudson Valley Agriculture
2 • The Workers: Labor Conditions, Paternalism, and Immigrant Stories
3 • The Farmers: Challenges of the Small Business
4 • Sustainable Jobs? Ethnic Succession and the New Latinos
5 • Toward a Comprehensive Food Ethic Methodological Appendix
Margaret Gray is Associate Professor of Political Science at Adelphi University.
"Labor and the Locavore is a timely and important antidote to much of today's popular food writing on eating local. Forthright and rigorous in its depiction of labor conditions on small farms in New York's Hudson Valley—the hub of the New York City local food system—Margaret Gray shows that labor abuses are not unique to industrial scale agriculture—or to California." —Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism
"Small may be beautiful; when local it may be even better. But as Margaret Gray’s beautifully written ethnography shows, the romance with the small and the local focuses on the conditions under which produce is grown while ignoring the conditions endured by the immigrant workers planting, picking, and tending the locally grown food that socially conscious consumers so desire. Focusing on that iconic symbol—the small, family-owned farm—this carefully researched, extensively documented book sheds new light on the ways in which immigration has transformed all corners of American life and in so doing has confronted farmers, consumers, and workers alike with difficult yet ultimately resolvable dilemmas." —Roger Waldinger, author of How the Other Half Works: Immigration and the Social Organization of Labor
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