The Exceptional One Percent: U.S. Farmworker and Business Owner


  • Michael J. Pisani Central Michigan University
  • Joseph M. Guzman Michigan State University



Farmworker, Business Owner, Entrepreneurship, National Agricultural Workers Survey, NAWS, Latinos, Hispanics


This paper documents the exceptional confluence between employment as a U.S. farmworker and business owner. Hispanics compose the overall majority (79.7%) of U.S. farmworkers, with two-thirds (66.6%) of all farmworkers identifying as Mexican. Utilizing the National Agricultural Workers Survey conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Labor from 1989 to 2009, we explore the characteristics and determinants of these unique farmworker/business owners. Approximately 1% (or about 10,000) U.S. farmworkers are business owners either in the U.S. or in their native homeland. Both Hispanics (53.0%) and non-Hispanics (47.0%) form this unique subset, although Hispanic farmworkers are underrepresented in this business owner subset given that they make up a relatively high proportion of all U.S. farmworkers. Implications for business growth, entrepreneurship, and economic development abound; even in the most trying of occupations entrepreneurial outcomes may emerge. Two case studies outline possible pathways to business formation for agricultural workers.

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Author Biographies

Michael J. Pisani, Central Michigan University

Professor of International Business and holder of the Jerry and Felicia Campbell Endowed Professorship for Research, Central Michigan University; 204C Smith Hall; Mt. Pleasant, Michigan 48859 USA; +1-989-774-3450.

Joseph M. Guzman, Michigan State University

Assistant Professor, School of Human Resources & Labor Relations and Interim Director, Chicano/Latino Studies Program, Michigan State University; South Kedzie Hall Room 200/414; 368 Farm Lane; East Lansing, Michigan 48824 USA; +1-517-353-8519.



How to Cite

Pisani, M. J., & Guzman, J. M. (2016). The Exceptional One Percent: U.S. Farmworker and Business Owner. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 6(2), 225–242.



Labor in the Food System Call Papers