Alexander Samuel Korsunsky
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationVanderbilt U.
Grant numberGr. 10012
Approve DateAugust 26, 2020
Project TitleKorsunsky, Alexander (Vanderbilt U.) " Relocalizing agriculture in a transnational world: settled farmworkers and the political ecology of place "
ALEX KORSUNSKY, then a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, received funding in August 2020 to aid research on “Relocalizing Agriculture in a Transnational World: Settled Farmworkers and the Political Ecology of Place,” supervised by Dr. Norbert Ross. Despite the rise of U.S. alternative food movements in the past half-century, farming remains highly racialized: the overwhelming majority of farmers are white, while most laborers are Mexican (im)migrants. Opening U.S. agriculture to farmers of color is therefore an issue of equity—but is it also, as food-justice/food-sovereignty scholars and activists hope, a path towards a more humane and sustainable food system rooted in diverse agrarian traditions of land stewardship? Drawing on fieldwork in western Oregon’s Willamette Valley, this project investigates how Mexican immigrant farmers’ experiences in agriculture—on family farms in their home communities, as laborers in the US, and as participants in nonprofit initiatives—inform their farming styles and aspirations. While scholars of immigrant agriculture often center agrarian tradition and organized alternative food initiatives, this study finds that unaffiliated farmers are more conventional in their practices, replicating the techniques they learned on U.S. farms as hired workers. While both categories of farmers draw on elements of their agrarian heritage in forming their aspirations, these findings suggest that the effects of tradition on farming are more contingent than scholars and activists may believe and urge caution on a field often drawn to the romance of agrarian Others.