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Keywords:

  • local food;
  • agricultural labor;
  • volunteer labor;
  • direct-market agriculture;
  • Iowa

Abstract

Local food has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the natural food industry. Nationwide, farmers' market attendance and memberships in Community Supported Agriculture have increased dramatically. This increased demand for locally produced food puts producers in the position of having to decide whether or not to rapidly scale up their operations, collaborate with other producers, or turn business away. One of the major obstacles to growth faced by producers is access to reliable, affordable labor. This paper explores several mechanisms by which producers may obtain and retain reliable labor sources. The typical options include hiring paid employees, using volunteers, or hiring interns. Each of these strategies has advantages and disadvantages, both socially and economically for the producer and the community.