Nothing to Learn? Labor Learning in California's Farmwork



Because of a perceived simplicity of its tasks and the recurrent presence of migrants in it, the agricultural labor force in California has been characterized as easily replaceable, composed of transitory unskilled workers. However, the increasing settlement of farmworkers demands new approaches. Based on anthropological fieldwork conducted in California's Central Valley among farmworkers employed in orange and table grape production, this essay describes some informal labor learning processes and everyday practices of decentralized labor management in order to explore how they are related to modern fresh-food agro-industry, proposing that both elements are of significant importance to the creation of a workforce tailored to fulfill the requirements of the production of high-value crops. The effect of the learning processes in the emerging of new working and life trajectories is also addressed, questioning whether the new context includes the possibility of long careers in farmwork.