Who Works Here? Contingent Labor, Nonfamily Labor, and Immigrant Labor on U.S. Dairy Farms

Rebecca L. Schewe, Bernadette White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Using a survey of dairy farmers in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida, this study examines labor patterns on U.S. dairy farms by analyzing employment of nonfamily and immigrant labor, as well as labor precarity and contingency. We build upon and connect two divergent theoretical frames: first, the contradictory class location of family farmers, and second, the neoliberal rise of precarious and contingent labor. We move beyond the family/nonfamily farm binary often found in examinations of the class location of family farmers, including the interplay of family and nonfamily labor, demonstrating that farm size is an equally important component of labor relations to farm ownership structure. Farms’ labor relations more accurately exist on a continuum between “family” and “industrial” that reflects both ownership structure and farm size. Extending the study of precarious and contingent labor into the agricultural sector, we suggest that high rates of overtime work may be a unique form of labor precarity in agriculture, not just part-time work. Scholars must acknowledge that labor precarity and contingency may take different forms across diverse sectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-447
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Currents
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • agriculture
  • contingent labor
  • immigrant labor
  • labor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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