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Labor and the Locavore

Labor and the Locavore: The Making of a Comprehensive Food Ethic

Margaret Gray
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Labor and the Locavore
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95706-0
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-14)

    A september drive up the Taconic State Parkway or New York Thruway or a journey along one of the region’s rural roads offers storybook views of bountiful red and yellow fruit adorning rows of trees. The orchards of the Hudson Valley have been a staple of the agricultural region for several centuries. The twenty-first century has seen a revival of interest in the valley’s farms as consumers visit pick-your-own farms and pull over at farm stands. For local urbanites the Hudson Valley delivers; many of the goods on offer at farmers’ markets originate from the region. The media storm of...

  6. ONE Agrarianism and Hudson Valley Agriculture
    (pp. 15-40)

    When today’s hudson valley growers are lionized in the pages of foodie magazines or the travel section of the New York Times, they are depicted as practicing a dying trade and preserving open space for the cultural and environmental good. Many of the region’s farmers see themselves as part of a hardscrabble agricultural tradition (my own town in the region celebrates an annual “Hardscrabble Day”), and certainly their precarious economic position relative to owners of factory farms supports this perspective. Many of their ancestors came from very humble backgrounds, and some struggled against the oppressive tenant system of the eighteenth...

    (pp. 41-67)

    Charmed and persuaded by the aesthetics of agrarianism, food writers sustain the belief that local agricultural activity is superior in almost every respect to the industrial food system. Indeed, in this regard “local” is sold as a commodity, one laden with assumptions that often go unexamined. We want to see our local/small/family farmers as much more than merely businesspeople. We expect them to produce a range of diverse crops, to either practice organic farming or the safer use of chemicals,¹ to have fewer animals than CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feed Operations), and to allow their animals to roam freely and graze...

    (pp. 68-101)

    To fully understand the structural plight of Hudson Valley farmworkers, we must take a step back and explore the pressures and predicaments facing the region’s farmers. Why do farmers treat their workers the way they do? This is by no means a simple question to answer. Because they are confronted with constant economic challenges and are forced to balance an array of obligations, farmers’ own positions cannot be lightly dismissed. Insecurity has been a condition endemic to Hudson Valley farmers since the time of tenant farming. In the regional record, it is difficult to locate an era of more than...

    (pp. 102-127)

    In the last decade of the twentieth century, the composition of the agricultural work force in New York State changed dramatically. The number of black farmworkers, including African American and Caribbean, declined from almost half to one-quarter of the work force, while the presence of Latino workers increased from one-third to two-thirds.¹ This was a shift not only in race, but also in legal status, from citizen and green card holders to the undocumented. In the ensuing years, the black farm work force, including migrants from the South and local settled-out workers (those who move to New York after being...

  10. FIVE Toward a Comprehensive Food Ethic
    (pp. 128-150)

    Almost every worker i met agreed to speak with me for this research. With few exceptions, they took the interview process very seriously. Cecilia, an apple packer from El Salvador who was employed on an Ulster County apple farm, leaned across the table and put her hand on mine; she made eye contact as she declared, “You must get our story out, for we cannot tell it.” In part, to honor her request, I have tried to present her story and those of workers like her across the region. It was equally important for me to include in these pages...

  11. Methodological Appendix
    (pp. 151-154)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 155-182)
    (pp. 183-204)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 205-226)