Ellen Wall

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




R. J. Richardson


Using the Ontario processed tomato industry as a case study, this dissertation examines how the situation facing hired labour in Ontario agriculture is influenced by the growth of agribusiness. The trend to mechanize harvest operations symbolizes the development of agribusiness. Explanations for changes in labour markets, labour process, and control and organization of work activity that accompany mechanization are explained with reference to established models for change in contemporary agricultural structure. The utility of these models, which include evolutionist, integrationist, and historicist perspectives, is tested with original data. In general, the evolutionist model is found to be the most satisfactory. Data were gathered during 1988-1989 by various methods: historical research, interviews, and participant and non-participant observation. This study concludes that, with mechanization, the farm labour market changes and takes on features similar to the labour market for work classified as unskilled and low status in non-farm industries. It is also evident that hired agricultural workers (and many of the growers who employ them) lose control over work activity and conditions when tomatoes are machine harvested. The primary benefactors from such changes are the major processing firms whose influence continues to dominate the agro-food industry. This investigation into hired farm labour and agribusiness is significant because it is among the first to address the situation facing hired agricultural workers in Ontario. As well, it not only adds new material to scholarly debates about changes in agricultural structure, but also contributes to Canadian political economy studies.

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