Rotten asparagus and just-in-time workers:

Canadian agricultural industry framing of farm labour and food security during the COVID-19 pandemic




Migrant workers, Farmworkers, Farm workers, COVID-19, Food Security


In early stages of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian farming industry expressed panic that travel restrictions could disrupt the arrival of migrant farmworkers from the Majority World. In this Perspective essay, we consider how farm industry lobbying successfully framed delays to hiring migrant farmworkers as a threat to national food security. After demonstrating how migrant workers have long been situated in spaces of legal exceptionalism, we argue that framing migrant farmworkers as essential for the national public good of domestic food production conceals how they are also essential for private capital accumulation in agribusiness. In the haste to hire migrant workers quickly, Canadian federal and provincial governments largely failed to prevent farmworker COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths predicted by researchers and activists. We conclude by underscoring the need to fundamentally transform temporary labour migration programs in ways that uphold migrant dignity beyond exceptionalism. 

Author Biographies

Anelyse Margaret Weiler, University of Victoria

Anelyse Weiler is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Victoria.

Evelyn Encalada Grez, Simon Fraser University

Evelyn Encalada Grez is an Assistant Professor in The Labour Studies Program and The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Simon Fraser University.




How to Cite

Weiler, A. M., & Encalada Grez, E. (2022). Rotten asparagus and just-in-time workers:: Canadian agricultural industry framing of farm labour and food security during the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadian Food Studies La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 9(2), 38–52.