Pp. 135-169 (35)
Keith V. Bletzer
This chapter explores disproportionate mobility, given the precarious
conditions of agrarian society, which requires workers willing to travel, perform
physical labor, and forego advanced training that inhibits potential advancement. Most
workers learn the basic skills for routine tasks; a few become crew chiefs who recruitmanage-
supervisor farm labor, and/or own vehicles for transporting and/or property for
housing workers. Very few ever own a farm. Against this backdrop, individual farm
workers experience physically demanding labor that can lead to self-medication and
risk-taking with drug and alcohol use, and accessing sex workers in the absence of
lifelong companions. The chapter describes socio-economic mobility based on “settlingin”,
“settling-out”, and “migratory farm labor”, and explores several places that became
icons for farm labor in public memory and popular literature.
Six cases illustrate settling-in and settling-out. Three individuals remained in the same
rural county where they were raised (Sibel and Len Moise in Lower South, Propel in
Middle South), one returned to his childhood home after military service (Morse in
Middle South), one lived in several areas before he brought his wife and three children
from another country and made a home for them in the eastern United States (Polo in
Middle South), and one case of father-son farm ownership in the Midwest.
Harvesting, migratory worker, non-continuous labor, people of
mobility, perishable crops, receiving area, residential stability, seasonal
employment, seasonal worker, sending area, settling-in, settling-out, short hire,
shuttle migrant, social mobility, summer-demand, undocumented worker, winterdemand,
worksite safety, year-round farmhand.