University of Vermont

First Frank M. Bryan Vermont Research Award Winner Selected

Frank Bryan, professor emeritus, talks about why Vermont research matters.

The Center for Research on Vermont selected Teresa Mares, assistant professor of anthropology, as the first Frank M. Bryan Vermont Scholar for a Vermont research project titled “La Otra Frontera (The Other Border): Exploring Latino/a Migrant Foodways.”
The Frank M. Bryan Vermont Scholar Summer Research Award provides $5,000 in summer salary to faculty and independent scholars conducting Vermont research. The award is named in honor of Professor Frank Bryan (who retired in 2013) -- an internationally recognized scholar who devoted much of his career to studying democracy with Vermont as the laboratory. A founding member of the Center for Research on Vermont, Bryan is a trustee of the Vermont Historical Society and the recipient of the Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2013).

In this research, Mares will examine the political-economic dimensions of migrant labor in Vermont’s dairy industry and the way people in the system cope with and make meaning of its complexities and injustices in a series of research initiatives related to the role of food in the daily lives of migrant workers on Vermont’s dairy farms.

Migrant workers have a long history in Vermont’s agriculture and more recently on Vermont’s dairy farms. Often characterized as a “new” or “nontraditional” destination for Latino/a migration, the state of Vermont has seen a steady increase in the number of migrant farmworkers from Mexico and other Latin American countries since the late 1990s. Despite the newness of this trend, the Latino/a population in the state grew 24 times faster than the overall population between 2000 and 2010. Currently, there are an estimated 1,200-1,500 Latino/a migrant dairy workers in Vermont.
As the whitest state in the nation, these demographic changes have not gone unnoticed, and the presence of these workers reveals the hidden dynamics behind the state’s iconic working landscape.

This study poses four integrated research questions: 1) How do Latino/a migrants in Vermont define their food needs and preferences and in what ways have these definitions changed as a result of migration? 2) What networks, strategies, and resources do Latino/a migrant households utilize to access, prepare, and share food? 3) What role does food access and food security play in the motivations of Latino/a migrants to migrate to Vermont and in shaping their everyday lives once in the United States? 4) How do dairy workers delegate and negotiate the duties associated with accessing and preparing food within the household and what role does gender play in these negotiations?

Few studies have addressed how Latino/a farmworkers access food or how they negotiate the presence or absence of food in the household. Yet, researchers in other areas of the country have repeatedly documented the severity of food insecurity and other inequalities in food access among farmworkers, focusing mostly upon seasonal workers in states with long histories of Latino/a migration.