Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Systems

First Advisor

Teresa Mares


Vermont prides itself on being a national role model in developing innovative models for community-supported, ecologically responsible agricultural practices. However, Vermont's largest sector of agriculture, the dairy industry, has increasingly relied on Latinx* migrant farm laborers who face significant challenges. Due to a lack of a year-round agricultural visa program, most farmworkers on Vermont's dairy farms are unable to receive proper documentation. This circumstance has a significant impact on migrant workers, particularly those living and working closer to the border, as those areas fall within federal jurisdiction of US immigration enforcement. In these borderlands, surveillance is intensified and so the pressure to be invisible is heightened. The current availability of agricultural visas is limited to seasonal migrant farmworkers, and because dairy is year-round work, farmworkers in the dairy industry are barred from accessing proper documentation. Increased patrolling along the northern border results in extreme isolation, fear, and the inability to access basic human rights. For migrant workers on Vermont's dairy farms, just taking a trip to the grocery store is to risk deportation.

This thesis examines systemic barriers, complex relationships, and resilient responses of Vermont's farmworkers, drawing upon applied, mixed methods. The first article uses ethnography to examine food access and food sovereignty through Huertas, an applied garden project in northern VT. The second article analyzes the methodologies connected to El Viaje Más Caro/The Most Costly Journey, an applied cartooning project that shares farmworker stories with other migrant farmworkers as a tool to break cycles of isolation and relieve psychological distress. Both projects illustrate resilient responses to the barriers associated with being undocumented along the Northern border.

While the thesis is based on research conducted in Vermont, the significance is broader in scope, and representative of national and international trends. The food system is built upon those who are continually stripped of and denied rights. While this is about Vermont, it is not only about Vermont: these stories are symptomatic of a larger structural violence. This thesis situates itself in a multi-scalar context-Vermont, the US, international- in which the stories conveyed are indicative of political and economic systemic obstacles, and the potential for human creativity to subvert and respond to systems of oppression.

*I use the term "Latinx" throughout my thesis because it is a gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin@. It is pronounced "La-teen-ex". This is a term that has been introduced by the trans/queer community, but is increasingly being adopted by scholars, activists, journalists, and social media. (Ramirez & Blay, 2016)



Number of Pages

132 p.