Mothers’ Milk: How Gender and Immigration Obscure Agricultural Expertise and Care Work in Dairyland

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Gender is a key lens through which to understand industrial agricultural production in rural twenty-first century communities. Here, I examine the gendered imaginaries of dairy production that perpetuate the meaning of “farmer” as masculine and white. The expertise of Mexican immigrant workers, and particularly that of women on spousal visas, challenges such assumptions and highlights the role of unremunerated labor in sustaining the industrial food chain. Everyday experiences of gender and race are shaped not only by local-level assumptions but also by federal-level immigration policies and employer recruitment practices that result in a mostly male immigrant agricultural workforce. In this article, I draw on interviews with rural Minnesota community members, as well as local and regional news coverage, to examine how gender and race intersect to marginalize the work and expertise of Mexican immigrants in the rural Midwest. In this case, Mexican immigrant mothers frame their labor as part of a complex calculus of immigration benefits and sacrifices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-82
Number of pages9
JournalCulture, Agriculture, Food and Environment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Anthropological Association


  • care work
  • gender
  • immigration
  • rural communities


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