Agricultural apprenticeships: Reproducing traditional labor relations in the alternative food movement? Public Deposited

Agricultural apprenticeships are an increasingly popular labor relation in which apprentices provide farm labor in exchange for training/education, a stipend, housing, and/or food. Apprenticeships are taking place on small-scale and medium-scale, ecologically-oriented farms typically selling to local or regional markets. These farms are situated within an alternative food movement (AFM) that perpetuates agrarian ideology idealizing farmers but ignoring farmworkers. Given the AFM’s inattention to workers, small farms’ struggling economic viability, and misconceptions about labor justice on small farms, this research studied how agricultural apprenticeships address social equity. Specifically, this research examined the goals and practices of agricultural apprenticeships in the United States and the extent to which these apprenticeships achieve social justice. Evaluating twenty-six agricultural apprenticeship programs using grounded theory, this thesis found programs’ top goals to be educating about sustainable agriculture and creating new farmers; programs less commonly educate about social justice or aim to create new farmworkers. Apprenticeship practices, including hands-on training, vary considerably and are dependent on individual farms. Few programs formally evaluate host farmers. I assessed programs’ goals and practices according to “five faces of oppression”: powerlessness, exploitation, marginalization, cultural imperialism, and violence. I found that agricultural apprenticeships impede social justice in numerous ways for apprentices and other farmworkers, such as by excluding apprentices and farmworkers in their development and/or implementation. High variability in how the term agricultural “apprenticeship” is used contributes to apprentices’ exploitation. I also explored similarities and differences between today’s agricultural apprenticeships, industrialized farm labor relations, pre-modern apprenticeships, and apprenticeships in other industries.

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