Cultivating Equitable Ground: Community-based Participatory Research To Connect Food Movements with Migrant Farmworkers


  • Anelyse M. Weiler University of Toronto
  • Charles Z. Levoke Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Carolyn Young Sustain Ontario



Alternative Food Networks, Community-Based Research, Food Movement, Labour, Migrant Workers, Sustainable Food System


Despite popular momentum behind North American civil society initiatives to advance social justice and ecological resilience in the food system, food movements have had limited success engaging with migrant farmworkers. This article describes a partnership between a nonprofit food network organization in Ontario, Canada, with a mandate to advance healthy food and farming across the region and university researchers. The purpose of this community-based research was to gather a broad range of actionable ideas from key informants to advance health and equity conditions of migrant farmworkers. "Key solution ideas" were gathered primarily through 11 in-depth interviews and ongoing feedback from relevant actors. We reflect on the unique features of approaching this often-divisive area of inquiry through a university-community partnership. Reviewing the solution ideas, we categorize proposals for advancing farmworker health and equity under four broad themes: (a) health and safety, (b) farmworker recruitment and mobility, (c) community building and social integration, and (d) immigration policy. We then critically evaluate the constraints and opportunities for addressing proposals through a network-based food organization that takes a "big tent" approach to collaborative action on polarizing issues. A tension for such organizations is taking meaningful action while avoiding overly polarizing political stances, which can alienate some members and neglect obligations to funders. Notwithstanding such tensions, community-university research partnerships have the potential to expand spaces for advancing equity with farmworkers. As food networks are seeking to build meaningful alliances with migrant justice and labour movements, this study provides a timely contribution to literature and practice at the intersection of community-based participatory research, sustainable food networks, labour, and immigration.

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Author Biographies

Anelyse M. Weiler, University of Toronto

Department of Sociology, University of Toronto; 725 Spadina Avenue; Toronto, Ontario M5S 2J4 Canada.

Charles Z. Levoke, Wilfrid Laurier University

Department of Geography, Wilfrid Laurier University; 75 University Avenue West; Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3C5 Canada.

Carolyn Young, Sustain Ontario

Former Director, Sustain Ontario.



How to Cite

Weiler, A. M., Levoke, C. Z., & Young, C. (2016). Cultivating Equitable Ground: Community-based Participatory Research To Connect Food Movements with Migrant Farmworkers. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 6(2), 73–87.



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