Standard Article

Farm laborers, United States and Canada

Migration A–Z

F

  1. Billy Peard

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm219

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Peard, B. 2013. Farm laborers, United States and Canada. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

Abstract

Although the term has slightly different meanings in different contexts, the most precise and inclusive definition for a migrant farm worker is “itinerant harvester or planter.” This reflects the reality that virtually all farm laborers in the United States are involved in the labor-intensive processes found at the beginning or at the end of the growing cycle. As one commentator noted, the term “migrant farm worker” is the commonly accepted terminology because “itinerant” lacks phonetic grace and “seasonal farm worker” erroneously assumes that all seasonal work involves long-distance travel (Moore 1965: xi). A migrant farm worker is defined by US law as someone “whose employment requires travel that preclude[s] the farm worker from returning to his or her domicile within the same day” (Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act, codified as 29 USC 1802). Notwithstanding legal definitions, the term is best understood in conjunction with the unique circumstances that led to the current agricultural economy, which manages to feed the nation by employing less than 2 percent of the workforce (Rothenberg 1998: 62).

Keywords:

  • anthropology;
  • farming;
  • political economy;
  • poverty;
  • family