Megan Horst

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Urban Studies (M.U.S.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies

Physical Description

1 online resource (v, 42 pages)




Farmers have traditionally depended on their families or paid employees to cover their extensive labor needs. Today, non-waged labor models are gaining popularity, especially among small, ecologically-oriented farms. Apprenticeships and internships can be a primary form of training for a population of new and beginning farmers, many of whom are entering the field without farming backgrounds. However, many question the sustainability and justness of these arrangements. As a new phenomenon, very little research examines the relationship between non-waged labor models like agricultural apprenticeships and alternative food movements. In this exploratory study, I surveyed nearly 250 farmers growing for local markets in the Southern Appalachians to better understand their rationales for using waged or non-waged labor, and to explore how those decisions impact the local food movement developing within the region. I find that farmers using non-waged labor are smaller, less profitable, and more likely to be new to farming than their wage-paying counterparts, and that they choose to host non-waged laborers for both economic and noneconomic reasons. Ultimately, I find that non-waged labor models create incremental steps towards changing the food system by educating new farmers and food systems advocates, increasing the transparency of agricultural labor practices, and giving small-scale farmers a chance to grow their business and get more products into the local economy. However, the non-wage labor model may not be sustainable in the long run, and it perpetuates injustices, such as the exclusion of those who can't afford to train without pay, and it should evolve as the food system evolves.

Persistent Identifier

Included in

Urban Studies Commons