Paid Work, Unpaid Work, and Economic Viability in Alternative Food Initiatives: Reflections from Three Boston Urban Agriculture Endeavors
Keywords:Alternative Food Initiatives, Food Justice, Urban Agriculture, Labor, Unpaid Work, Economic Viability, Exploitation, Boston, Volunteers
This article addresses issues related to paid work, unpaid work, and economic viability in alternative food initiatives (AFIs) by comparing three urban agriculture entities in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. The discussion is framed in terms of what constitutes alternative economic practices. Three standards of assessment are used in the analysis: First, that of whether the AFIs are able to provide "good jobs" along with "good food"; second, the extent to which the AFIs engage in alternative economic practices by relying on non-exploitative forms of work; and third, the extent to which they foster spaces for enabling progressive social change by engaging in a reflexive local politics oriented toward creating sustainable, democratic, and equitable community food systems. Preliminary research indicates that the three AFIs surveyed represent a spectrum with respect to their ability to provide "good jobs," their non-exploitative economic practices, and the extent to which they foster spaces for enabling a reflexive food politics. Given that the economic viability of all three AFIs depends on a significant amount of unpaid work, the discussion concludes by reflecting on the nature and implications of unpaid work by addressing three questions: How is unpaid work understood and fostered by these AFIs; what are the conditions that enable it; and is it indicative of alternative, noncapitalist economic logics and practices?
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