This research explores how sustainable food initiatives in British Columbia have engaged with social protection and political inclusion for farm workers. Specifically, I consider two groups facing precarious employment: migrant farm workers and un(der)paid agricultural interns. Some members of alternative food networks idealize farm employers as “rock stars” while characterizing disaffirming cases as anomalous “bad apples.” Based on qualitative research, I find that alternative food actors have addressed farm worker social protection through three broad avenues: a moral economy, consumer-driven regulation, and a tenuous engagement with the state. I argue that some of the assumptions underlying these three approaches reproduce precariousness for farm workers; they thus constitute a barrier to the achievement of alternative food networks’ vision of food system transformation. I conclude by considering how a food sovereignty framework might involve farm workers, alternative food actors and other stakeholders in defining human-intensive food systems based on dignified livelihoods.
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