Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Dr. Sherrie Larkin


This research examines how growers engage in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) debate in Ontario. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2012 and 2013 and data collected from media sources, growers were found to employ two different thematic narratives – functional and philosophical – to defend the program and to drive attention towards a broader narrative of socioeconomic decline in agriculture. Functional narratives focused on the economic and political advantages of the program and portrayed growers within a restrictive triangular power structure consisting of growers, the Canadian state, and SAWP workers. Their philosophical and emotional arguments are built upon images that romanticize farming and valorize farm work. These appeals, whether pragmatic or emotional, are key to understanding the growers’ worldviews. This thesis concludes by arguing that program critics, as well as growers, must more seriously engage and come to terms with these narratives for the SAWP debate to move forward.