Title

Making labor visible in the food movement: Outreach to farmworkers in Michigan

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2020

Department/School

Social Work

Publication Title

Qualitative Social Work

Abstract

© The Author(s) 2020. While the food movement includes many critical positive initiatives, it shows little recognition of the labor contributions of the farmworkers who produce the food. A visit to a few local towns in western Michigan revealed farmworkers are invisible in “farm to table” tropes. A study was undertaken to explore farmworkers and their living conditions, and the links between their local invisibility and historic, political, and global processes. Using ethnographic fieldwork, the author visited housing camps, spoke with farmworkers, rode along with outreach workers, and volunteered at migrant summer schools. A framework of structural violence informed the analysis. The findings include descriptions of migrant housing camps, in which migrants face substandard and overcrowded conditions, and their placement in hard to access locations. The study describes how outreach is conducted, highlighting strategies and methods outreach staff/interns use to connect with farmworkers in labor camps, taking information and services directly to them, sensitive to their circumstances, which include limited time availability and communal living conditions. The study also highlights the invisible faciality of farmworkers locally and in international agribusiness restructuring and concludes with a discussion on the role of social work in increasing farmworkers’ visibility in the food movement and practice.

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