In Search of the Fart-Time Capitalist Farmer: Labour Use and Farm Structure in Central Canada

Authors


  • *The author wishes to thank the farm operators and their families who participated in this study and who were unfailingly generous with their time. He also would like to acknowledge the diligent efforts of Valda Gillis and Beverly Wemp in the fieldwork stage of this project, and Joanne Duncan Robinson's patient assistance with some aspects of data analysis. The project upon which this paper is based would not have been possible without the generous financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The manuscript of this article was submitted in August 1994 and accepted for publication in May 1995.

Abstract

Cet article examine la thèse selon laquelle l'agriculture capitaliste prédomine aujourd'hui dans l'Occident industrialisé. Une étude empirique des fermes dans le centre du Canada qui sont intégrées dans les entreprises agroindustrielles explique la complexité structu-relle de l'agriculture et l'importance des caractéristiques du produit agricole pour définir 1'organisation de la ferme. Les données qui indiquent la longue durée et le volume relativement élevé de travail-leurs salariés saisonniers (dont quelques-uns du Mexique et des Caraïbes) employés dans certaines categories de fermes sont parti-culiérement notables. Ce type de travail est important pour définir la structure de ces fermes. Ces conclusions contestent quelques généralisations nâtives trouvées dans la documentation sur la structure des fermes et suggère le besoin de repenser les analyses précédentes des répercussions des entreprises agroindustrielles sur l'agriculture familiale.

This paper examines the contention that capitalist agriculture is coming to predominate in the industrialized West. An empirical study of central Canadian farms integrated into agribusiness operations indicates the structural complexity of agriculture and the importance of commodity features in defining the social organization of farms. Particularly notable findings concern the long duration and relatively high volumes of seasonal wage labour, some of it migratory offshore labour, used on certain categories of farms, and the importance of this labour usage in defining these farms in structural terms. These findings challenge the sweeping generalizations found in the rural sociological literature concerning farm structure, and in particular previous analyses of the impact of agribusiness on petty-commodity production.

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