This research commentary reviews our exploratory study of the incorporation of fair labor practices into the business models of values-based agrifood supply chains (VBSCs) studied in the USDA-sponsored “agriculture-of-the-middle” (AOTM) regional research project. We examined what the certification affiliations of AOTM enterprises signaled about their values priorities as described in AOTM case study documents and in the enter­prises’ website advertising outreach. While we found weak evidence for prioritization of the fair labor practices value in these case study materials, our analysis suggests that characteristics of VBSC lead enterprises—whether the VBSCs are producer-, consumer-, or aggregator-driven—provide a promising focus for future research into possibilities for fair labor practices in these types of alternative agrifood enterprises. In an effort to advance research on this important but relatively neglected topic in the alternative agriculture litera­ture, we note the need to develop effective, ethical research strategies to investigate sensitive labor issues in alternative agrifoood supply chains and to identify labor-intensive VBSCs as future case study targets.

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Published in Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, v. 7, no. 3.

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