RFRC researchers and affiliates (Elizabeth Fitting, Catherine Bryan, Karen Foster and Jason Ellsworth) have authored a new paper in the journal Agriculture and Human Values. This article, Re-centering Labour in Local Food: local washing and the growing reliance on permanently temporary migrant farmworkers in Nova Scotia, draws on fieldwork conducted for the team's EU-funded project, Mobilities and Externalities in Nova Scotia's Local Food Movement.
Abstract: This article explores the labour behind local food in the Canadian Atlantic province of Nova Scotia. Based on surveys and interviews with farmers, migrant farmworkers, and farmers’ market consumers in the province, we suggest that the celebration of local food by government and industry is a form of “local washing.” Local washing hides key aspects of the social relations of production: in this case, it hides insufficient financial and policy supports for Nova Scotian farms and the increased reliance on migrant farmworkers via the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Our research found that a growing reliance on migrant farmworkers was not just the case for larger, industrial farms, but also for smaller farms participating in local and alternative food initiatives, like farmers’ markets and fresh produce subscription boxes. Additionally, our surveys show that while farmers’ market shoppers expressed an interest in supporting local foods, they reported knowing little about farm workers or working conditions. Our paper contributes to the literature on local and alternative food initiatives by connecting the relations of production to consumption. Rather than focusing solely on the nature of the relationships between farmers and consumers and the values embodied in direct agricultural markets, this research explores the central role of permanently temporary migrant workers in local agriculture.